Month: June 2014

“The Escape Artist”–Thrilling Escapism

  In this two-part mini-series aired on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery Theater over the past two weeks, Will Burton (David Tennant of “Broadchurch”, “Dr. Who”, and “Harry Potter” fame) is  London’s top-ranked criminal defense barrister.   Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo, 2014 Tony-award winner for “A Raisin in the Sun”), is equally brilliant but number two in trial victories.  Both Will Burton and Maggie Gardner are at the top of their game,  two intellects who are perfectly matched and relentlessly ambitious.   Burton believes “everyone deserves...

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A Prophet–But Not in His Own Land

This French film, winner of the 2009 Grand Prix at Cannes and France’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, is a prison drama in the same league as “Shawshank Redemption” and secondarily “Goodfellas”:  raw, intense, and violent.  It works largely because  Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), a 19-year-old French youth of Algerian origins, finds himself in horrific circumstances far exceeding the crime of resisting arrest for which he was found guilty and sentenced to a harsh six-year prison sentence.  Having to face situations in which both choices will...

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“North Face” (Nordwand) (2008)–The Ogre of the Alps

  Based on a true story, “North Face” is a suspenseful adventure film about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. Set in 1936 as Nazi Germany  urges the nation’s mountain climbers to conquer the unclimbed north face – the Eiger (“Ogre” in German) – two reluctant German climbers begin their daring ascent despite knowing their exploits will be used as propaganda. After being refused leave from the German army, they volunteer to make the climb, disinterested   in Third Reich  politics.  (Nazi politics play only a historical...

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“Cold in July”–Left this viewer cold too

        “Cold in July”  is the first film that Michael C. Hall has starred in following his tremendous performance as “Dexter”.   In addition, Sam Shepard appears as a Texan out for revenge for his ex-con son who has disappeared.  But neither of these fine actors can save this movie. The story is convoluted and the twists for  “film noir” are not easy to follow nor complete as the plot’s arc.  A husband and wife, sleeping at night in Texas in 1989, are disturbed by the noise of a burglar.  Soon after killing the culprit, Richard...

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“Palo Alto”–Typically “Shallow Alto”?

  I really, really wanted to like this movie, filmed on the street where we lived for almost twenty years.  I gave it every hall pass I could, especially since I think James Franco is a gifted actor, writer and artist.  Still, this is not a movie worth seeing.   The narrative focuses on shy, bored April (Emma Roberts), who comes from a family in which her stepfather (Val Kilmer), appears to be a stoner although there is no backstory whatsoever on her connection to her stepfather nor her feelings towards him.   She gets involved in a sexual relationship with her soccer coach Mr. B (a...

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