by Tony Medley
Blood Diamond (10/10):
Leonardo DiCaprio takes his place with Bogey and Newman as anti-hero
screen icons in this high-energy, tension-filled tale about trading
diamonds to finance arms purchases, at the same time showing the horror
of Sierra Leone terror; one of the best films of the year.
Little Children (10/10):
A complex, involving sexual thriller that paints an intriguing picture
of life and what we make of it. Despite its 2 hour-17 minute running
time, this is an honest look at infidelity and its ramifications, a
movie that never had me looking at my watch wishing it were over. Oscar
nominations should go to the incomparable Kate Winslet, Jackie Earle
Haley, who gives a breathtakingly disturbing performance as a sexual
predator, his mother Phyllis Somerville, and director Todd Field, if not
Winslet’s lover, Patrick Wilson.
Notes on a Scandal (9/10):
A terrific psycho-sexual thriller about teachers, as Judi Dench
(Barbara Covett) covets Cate Blanchett (Sheba; the names here clearly
mean more than “Smith” and “Jones”), who, herself, has had a sexual
relationship with one of her students. Director Richard Eyre deftly
directs the story so that this is not just a tawdry retelling of
Letourneau-like adventures, but a complex tale of relationships that
burst forth from submerged, sublimated feelings.
Perfume (8/10): An oddly
captivating 2 ˝ hour tale of a psychopath who boils women’s bodies to
make perfume in 19th Century France.
Despite Director-Writer Bill Condon’s obvious respect for the music, it
is deafeningly loud and non melodic. Not my cup of tea, but if you like
this kind of music, the story is good, highlighted by Eddie Murphy’s
performance in a supporting role. Bring ear plugs.
We Are Marshall (5/10):
So long it takes 40 minutes before the star, Matthew McConaughey, who
gives an odd performance, appears in this disappointing sports tale of
redemption after disaster.
Night at the Museum (5/10):
Neither funny nor interesting, this is aimed at a 10-year-old
intellect, but parents should be aware that it trivializes lots of
The Good Shepherd (5/10):
Two and one-half hours of watching unidimensional Matt Damon in this
tale that apparently is loosely based on controversial CIA agent James
Angleton is about two hours too many.
Letters From Iwo Jima (5/10):
While technically this is a well made, entertaining movie, Clint
Eastwood’s revisionist telling creates a moral equivalence between the
brutal soldiers of imperial Japan in the ‘30s and ‘40s (who were
responsible for pervasive atrocities, like the Rape of Nanking, the
Comfort Women, over a half million innocent women who were condemned to
a lifetime of sexual slavery, the Bataan Death March, and Pearl Harbor,
to name just a few) and the heroic Americans trying to defeat these
inhumane aggressors (the only atrocity in the entire film is committed
by an American GI who murders two Japanese POWs). Clint’s movie won’t
change the facts (56% of American POWs of imperial Japan died in
captivity vs. 1% in Europe) but will influence the ignorant and the
uninformed, and for that I condemn it.
The Holiday (3/10): Eli
Wallach, who plays Arthur, an octogenarian Jewish screenwriter disabled
by age, sums up sitting through this film nicely, when he tells Kate
Winslet, “Let’s get this embarrassment over with.” Winslet proves what
an exceptional actress she is by taking this dreadful material and
giving a captivating performance, while two charming children, Mifty
Englefield and Emma Pritchard steal every scene in which they appear.
The Good German (0/10):
Director Steven Soderbergh’s inept, poorly-acted homage to black and
white films of the 1940s, a putative thriller that’s not too thrilling
set in post-WWII Berlin.