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Monday, February 8, 2010

Movie Roundup

I have decided that only recent movies are relevant enough to merit full reviews in this space. However, I still plan to catch up on classic films through Netflix, and in case anyone is interested, will be providing quick thoughts on them periodically.

Unforgiven: Clint Eastwood's subversive western won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1992. It's a well-shot and entertaining story which tries to take an honest look at what a dirty, mean, horrible world the Old West probably was. Moral of the story is a bit obvious, but refreshing for a Hollywood that glorified gunfights for decades. Eastwood gives a fine performance, but Richard Harris and Oscar winner Gene Hackman (pictured above) steal the show. 9.0 out of 10

Bonnie and Clyde: Warren Beatty has been in the news lately for an unauthorized bio which claims he slept with nearly 13,000 different woman, a probably false statistic that still made it hard to believe his performance as the sexually incapacitated Clyde Barrow. Faye Dunaway is a tremendously sexy presence as Bonnie Parker, Gene Hackman is very good as Clyde's brother Buck, and Estelle Parsons somehow won an Oscar for playing the most annoying gang member in movie history. Overall, there's neither enough fun or enough weight to really make this movie resonate. 6.0 out of 10

Purple Rose of Cairo: Woody Allen's high-concept fantasy about a movie character who walks offscreen to say hello to Mia Farrow's sad housewife. Delightfully funny and surprisingly touching. Jeff Bridges plays the character and the "real" actor in a dual role, and the movie within the movie provides real laughs as the other actors are unable to continue without a key part of their ensemble. One of Allen's best that I've seen. 7.9 out of 10

Zelig: Another Woody Allen movie but this one misfires horribly. Focuses on a "human chameleon" who comes to resemble any person he encounters. Point here is really the effects, inserting Allen into '30s style footage. Also an early use of mockumentary format. Effects may have been astonishing at the time, but the humor here is nonexistent for a supposed comedy. I didn't even crack a smile and couldn't finish the film's 79 minute running time. Might be disingenuous to review a film I didn't finish, but this gets a 0.0 out of 10

The Americanization of Emily: Paddy Chayefsky wrote one of my favorite scripts ever, for 1976's Network, and I also enjoyed his script for The Hospital starring George C. Scott, so I expected to like this one a little bit more than I did. James Garner plays an U.S. admiral's personal aide who through army mess-ups winds up leaving his cushy job to be the first man on Omaha Beach in the D-day invasion. Julie Andrews is the English widow who falls in love with him for his cynical disbelief in heroism. Interesting ideas presented, but often they are presented in lengthy diatribes which break you out of the narrative. Worthwhile, but no Network. 6.6 out of 10

Without a Clue: Another Sherlock Holmes movie, but this one is a somewhat clever send-up of the great detective. Ben Kingsley's Dr. Watson has created a fictional detective the public believes is real, so he hires Michael Caine, an out-of-work actor, to play the part. Caine's Holmes is a bumbling moron who drives Watson crazy with his ego and his screw-ups. It's a funny premise that the film doesn't do much with. 5.8 out of 10

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