When I first saw this one years ago, I thought it was too much of a farce…too over the top…too silly. But, re-watching it, I am able now to see it’s fine details as one of America’s great broad comedies. Cary Grant is at his wackiest here…as the nephew of two matronly ladies who have begun an unusual pastime…murdering lonely old men and having them buried in the basement. We’ve all seen (and loved) Grant do screwball…but this is pretty much as slapstick as comedy can get. He’s physical and very expressive…perfect for this role as the befuddled nephew of these two crazy killers. Directed by Frank Capra, I think one of the reasons this one took a while to sink in is because it’s almost TOO over the top. But, I guess as I’m getting older, I find the need for more and more comedy. And this one will sure satisfy that need!
Posts Tagged: family
Another Newman/Richard Russo collaboration stems, this time, from Russo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a dying Maine town and its sad, depressed townspeople. Set in a former mill town, once the mill closed, the people of Empire Falls had nothing to do but be unemployed and desperate. Ed Harris plays main character Miles Roby, who is one of the stronger citizens of Empire Falls, considering he runs the local Empire Grill. But, this life is far from idyllic. Filled, like the novel, with an array of fun, colorful characters, this mini-series is not from one of Russo’s best works, in my opinion, but it still is a strong story that lends itself flawlessly to the screen.
An unassuming little British film turns into a power-house of emotion and impact with one of the most powerful performances on film in years. Mostly know for her stage work in her native England, Imelda Staunton delivers a tour-de-force turn as a 1950 London abortionist. Vera Drake’s transition, from a contented lower-middle-class housewife/mother/domestic to a wanted felon is seamless. In the beginning, we see someone who does not have a lot but is always happy…always upbeat about all of the trials of her life…a good-hearted, good-natured person who does way more for others (including strangers) than she would ever think of doing for herself. Then, the little secret she’s kept from everyone in her life comes out with a vengeance and her whole demeanor/persona changes. She’s no longer Vera, whistling while she cleans up after others…she’s Vera, lawbreaker with years of hidden secrets. A less skilled actress might have taken this role and relied more on clichéd shifts in emotions. Staunton brilliantly transforms Vera from a strong-willed woman to a helpless victim of an unjust system. Yet, the sparkle in Vera’s eyes never dies, no matter how hard the fight. It’s a depressing story but the performance of Staunton gives the audience something to hope for…
A charming tale about legal issues in the Edwardian Era of London…but also a fascinating look at the social graces of the day. How prim and proper everyone is…and restrained — it’s almost sinful (in a VERY reserved say, of course). Based on a true early 20th Century case in London, a young man gets accused of a small crime and consequently expelled from his private school for the alleged deed. Director David Mamet (normally more known for American crime dramas) takes the story (which was first turned into a play by author Terence Rattigan) and brings it and early 1900s London to life. Mamet uses some real locations that the actual case might have taken place in (the Horse Guards, House of Lords, and in Inns of Court) and fills the story with true passion and sincerity. There is tension, humor and romance, but all done with the appropriate levels of Edwardian propriety. Nigel Hawthorne is never better as the family patriarch, who puts everything into his son’s legal batter…even his health. Mamet’s real-life wife Rebecca Pidgeon plays the Winslow sister and the always spot-on Jeremy Northam plays the lawyer who takes the case. Both of these performances are played on the right level…passionate about their causes but perfectly undemonstrative. Edwardians would be proud!
Surprisingly, I liked this one. I didn’t see it right away after it came out on DVD since I wasn’t sure it was a film for me. But, the relationship of the brothers and also of the father and sons was captivating and kept me watching. Even though I felt parts (especially the ending) went a little too into the “melodramatic” realm, I felt that most of the movie was strong and convincing. Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix give believable performances as brothers initially pitted against each other. When Wahlberg’s character falls victim to a crime Phoenix might be in on. I bought Phoenix’s reaction and turmoil. It’s not the best crime drama ever made but over-all, it’s a good one.
When a father tries to force early success on his musical prodigy child, he soon realizes what his child needs most is his love. On its own, the storyline provides meaningful and poignant scenes and makes a heartwarming film. Weave the use of music into the mix and the film becomes even more powerful and stunning. But, at the true heart of this film is the relationship between the old man and the child. This film proves that no matter how high of expectations we set for our children, we never stop loving them even if they don’t achieve all that is expected. A meaningful film for anyone who at one time was someone’s child—meaning a film for all.
One of the more powerful films I’ve seen all year, the one word I keep using to describe this film and especially the main character of Daniel Plainview is ruthless. Here is the story of a man who at the VERY beginning of the film, sets his mind on a goal…to find oil on his land. We see him deep in the earth, checking the rocks to see if they lend any clues about what’s below. Once oil is found, we see Daniel’s progression to businessman. He no longer is LOOKING for oil. He has found it. And he wants to keep finding it on other pieces of land. Then, we see him as entrepreneur…a man who has a diversified and successful business in oil mining. The end of his life (shown just at the tail end of this lengthy movie) is about what his years of ruthlessness has led to…how it has taken its toll on him as a man and as a human being. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as Daniel and conveys convincingly to the audience to what lengths Daniel will go to in order to succeed as an oilman…no matter how nefarious. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing are never out of the question, when oil and power are at stake.
A charming, sweet film about a father who runs a bathhouse in Beijing and his two sons, one mentally handicapped and the other, Da, a stoic businessman. The movie revolves around Da’s coming to terms with his father’s ill health and his brother’s dependence on their father. Da had moved away years ago and not even bothered to introduce his father and brother to his new wife. His character’s transformation in this film is the highlight, even though it is a subtle, unassuming transition from detached to loving son. I’m not big on foreign films yet this film is so special that I watch it often. It’s a beautiful story of compassion, acceptance and emotion. It is a timeless tale about a man who comes of age a little later than most to open his heart to his family.
Are the hills alive? Well, if they weren’t before this movie, they sure are now. Take the premise from Maria von Trapp’s life story and add songs and dancing and what do you have—magic! That’s what Rodgers and Hammerstein must have discovered when they began adapting this story for the stage. And, shortly after its success on Broadway, Hollywood came calling and Rodgers and Hammerstein answered, taking director Robert Wise and writer Ernest Lehman along for the ride. If you don’t like musicals, you might be advised to be especially leery of this one. The Sound of Music takes the sappiness and melodrama you normally find (in small amounts) in musicals to new heights. But, in this film with this story and with these characters, it just seems to work and I love it. Julie Andrews (never better) plays Maria, a young, fledging novice nun who just can’t seem to make her convent life work with her rebellious and free-spirited personality. Christopher Plummer plays stern and ill-tempered Captain von Trapp, the head of a family for whom she governesses. Since I already said it was sappy, you can assume that a love story between these two unlikely people develops. Now seen as more of a children’s film, this movie is very much for everyone. Sure, children like the singing and the fact that there are six kids in the cast. But, adults should also appreciate that this film, though a bit overdone, is one of the best examples of the Hollywood musical ever produced.
Dustin Hoffman might like to “drive slow on the driveway,” but his brother prefers to take the classic 1957 Buick Roadmaster out on the highways for a spin. Since Hoffman’s character is autistic, this film often gets misjudged as a story about him and his illness. Where, at its heart, it is the tale of two brothers on the road together, getting to know each other for the first time. A little on the sappy side but not enough to keep you away from this film which won a well-deserved Best Picture Oscar.