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Cinema Reviews

by Bobby Matherne


Movies we watched this past month:


Hits (watch as soon as you can):

“Seabiscuit”

In the DVD Bonus Material, one commentator said, “In the 1930s there were three sports in America: Boxing, Baseball, and Horse Racing.” And in horse racing there was never a more cherished horse by the masses than Seabiscuit, the 1938 Horse of the Year. For his match race with War Admiral, forty million Americans tuned in on their radios and schools and offices were shut down for the afternoon. FDR listened in as well. This undersized horse came from a line of great sea metaphors: son of Hard Tack (dry biscuit used aboard ships), grandson of Man of War (a type of warship), and cousin of War Admiral, the much larger horse he was destined to race against. Puny, Seabiscuit was sold off as not suitable for racing. Beaten down constantly by his handlers, he had become, not surprisingly, hard to control. Till three remarkable men converged who had been beaten by life, and Seabiscuit led them to victory. And also to victory on Seabiscuit’s back rode the downtrodden masses of Americans who had been beaten down by the Great Depression. They filled the infields of every race track where their beloved horse raced to victory after victory, and crowded by their radios to cheer their hero on to glory.

“Sweet Home Alabama”

This movie is about a neat Southern gal who makes it big in NYC and gets a marriage proposal from son of the NYC Mayor during a private showing in Tiffany’s where she is told to pick out any engagement ring she wanted. Minor glitch: husband in Pigeon Corner, Alabama has yet to sign divorce papers. A hasty trip to secure the signature ensues, and soon one wonders where her heart really is: in NYC or Pigeon Corner, with Andrew or with Jake? With her doing an Ilsa in Casablanca indecision number, we are left on tenderhooks till the wedding reception when we finally discover who will dance with the bride. Plucks all the best heart strings, and best of all there’s not a villain in the whole movie.

“Housesitter”

With Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in her oblivious best as the perennial female Mark Twain for whom every question opens the possibility of a new story. We meet her shortly before she decides to house sit for Steve’s house. Would have been much less interesting a story if Steve had asked her to house sit for him. Her cover story for being in Steve's house evolves with each question asked by the residents of the small town, including Steve's parents. It went this way: she married Steve and he was working in the big city while she got the house ready for him. Soon she becomes the beloved new resident of the small town and no one will believe that she’s not married to Steve. Will they have to get married so they can get divorced, in order that people will believe they’re not married? Get ready for a free-wheeling ride on the Goldie-Go-Round. Here’s a Steve Martin flick where he spends most of it as spectator, in awe of the star of the movie.

“Fools Rush In”

An excellent chick flick with Matthew Perry (playing the best part I’ve seen him in) opposite a vibrant Mexican gal with even more vibrant family. When he visits her family for dinner, they round the side of the house and he sees that the patio is filled with people, food, and a band is playing. “A family dinner?” he asks? “Oh, some people couldn’t come,” she says, apologizing for the small size of the crowd. A feel good movie by dam.

“The Road Home”

About an old woman in a northern province of China who lost her husband. Her only son comes from a distant city to help bury his father. She wants her husband carried many miles by men to his final resting place, not transported by any vehicle, motorized or not. She wants to weave a cloth to cover the coffin during its transport. The son tries to dissuade her, to no avail. So he asks her why, and thereupon hangs a tale. A poignant tale of love and dedication which will carry you into another time, another world, and you will take the road home a different person, as her son did.

“The Goodbye Girl”

With Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason. With a re-make airing in a couple of days, we wanted to view the original. Hard to see where they could improve this one --- Neil Simon’s best script, exceptionally well-executed by a superb cast. Marsha as the gal who excelled at saying, “Goodbye” and Richard as the guy who wouldn’t.

Misses (avoid at all costs):

“The Thief”

Damn Russian thief stole 93 minutes of my time from me.

“Pirates of the Caribbean”

A look at the underarms of the sleaziest pirates imaginable. The movie is a cross between “The Crimson Pirate” and the Disneyland ride which was one of my favorites when I lived in Anaheim, mostly because it was a cool, dark place to sit down and enjoy a break from the heat, hustle, and bustle of outside. There was the dog sitting with the keys to the cell in his mouth, and the pirate trying to coax him to bring him the keys. The movie rose to the level of neither the ride nor the movie. Johnny Depp is no Burt Lancaster who, in his pirate movie, did all his own stunt work in the days before special effects. No redeeming qualities in this one unless you like watching Orlando Bloom blossom.

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

“One Fine Day”

With Michelle Pfeiffer and George Cooney --- it was about as memorable as the song whose title it borrowed. Want to watch parents parented by kids? This is your metier. Del loved it, I didn't care for it.

“About Schmidt”

Is almost about nothing. Just a man’s life. Not a very interesting man. Just a man. A man without a friend in the world. Except Ndugu, an orphan in Tanzania he adopted as Foster Child through ChildReach, and who became his pen pal. As slow as those last two minutes before his retirement that started the movie when he and us waited in real time watching the clock tick, tick, tick, tick – that’s how slow this movie was. It was like a painful eavesdropping into a lonely man’s life. Somehow it all worked thanks to the masterful acting of Jack Nicholson. Children under 45 should not watch this movie --- they will hate it.

“2 Seconds”

About a bicycle racer, Laura, who we met racing down Mammoth Mountain in California. Forced to retire, she moves to Quebec and becomes a courier. We follow her life. Sharing a flat with her brother. Learning to cope in the big city. Learning to stop riding the bicycle to do her deliveries. And a special relationship with Italian racer, now bicycle repairman, Lorenzo. He tells her a story which changed his life and that story changes Laura’s life. Amazing story — makes you stop and think for 2 seconds . . .

“Shower”

In Northern China, a businessman from the South goes to see his dad, who he expects from the picture his retarded brother sent him in crayon, was dead or dying. Apparently neither, his dad and his brother were happy running a bath house, jogging after work, having competitions over who could hold their breath the longest, and in steps this long lost brother who never smiled. Not at first. A very human look inside the lives of the owners and customers of a bath house. Full of exuberant joy, and enough bathos and pathos to fill ... er ... a bathtub.

“Shadow Magic”

The blurb on the DVD jacket says the movie “unlocks the power of cinema to reflect and magnify the human experience.” That seems to be happening in the early screenings of Mel Gibson’s new movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” from reports I’ve been getting that recount tales of miracle healings and conversions during the course of the movie. This tale of the traveling Englishman who first brought movies to China is enchanting. His hook-up with the local young man, Liu, who was chief photographer for the village led to an amazing friendship and collaboration. A loving look into aspects of early 20th Century Peking culture — centered around opera and photography — and how the locals reacted to yet another crazy Western invention.

“Children of Heaven”

Another trip to a foreign country, this time Iran, a small town outside a big city. A brother picks up his sister’s repaired shoes from the shoemaker and has them taken away while he buys food for his sick mother. They solve the problem by doing a relay of shoes each day, running to swap her sandals for his sneakers when it’s his time to go to school and her time to go home. A poignant look at survival in a small town in Iran that ends with a heroic race by the brother to win a new pair of sneakers.


See Bobby Matherne's website for many more movie and book reviews: www.doyletics.com; Bobby also has a Monthly Newsletter