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January 07 Thumbnails

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.

Dreamgirls (7/10): 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 American heroes.

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.