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Thumbnails March 08

by Tony Medley

A Walk to Beautiful (10/10): Ask 10 men what fistula is and 9 will probably guess that’s it’s a river in Poland. Ask 10 women and many, if not most, will probably correctly identify it. Obstetric fistula, which causes complete incontinence, is epidemic in Ethiopia. Director Mary Olive Smith brilliantly spotlights the isolation and shame into which 100,000 young women have been cast. Their salvation is the Addis Ababa Hospital which treats them free of charge. But many live in villages six hours or more from the nearest road. Smith follows five young women as they make the trek that could change their lives. These women have such tender, sensitive eyes, and express their suffering so eloquently, that you can feel the hurt every time you look at them, all the while admiring their bravery with which they accept their fate.

The Counterfeiters (10/10): This fascinating film is based on the true story of Salomon Smolianoff, a Russian Jewish artist who was the most notorious forger of art and money in the 1930s and how he became the chief forger in the counterfeiters’ workshop at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during WWII. The film shows the stark contrast between these privileged inmates and those on the other side of the wall who faced starvation and death every day. The entire story is told from the POV of the Jewish prisoners.

Jumper (7/10): Hayden Christensen can transport his body anywhere he’s been in an instant and Samuel Jackson doesn’t like it, so wants to kill him, all of which mystifies Hayden’s innocent girlfriend, Rachel Bilson. Not bad, but if you’re a fan of Diane Lane, don’t blink or you’ll miss her.

Rambo (7/10): John Rambo is back after a 20-year absence. Directed and co-written (with Art Monterastelli) by 61-year old Sylvester Stallone, this is for a loyal audience who knows what it wants and Stallone delivers. There are the evil bad guys in the person of the Myanmar military, a beautiful woman (Julie Benz), bad odds (seemingly thousands against about 8), graphic deaths, kidnapping, rescue, chase, and retribution. Stallone wants to gather attention to the brutality handed out by the Myanmar military to the gentle Burmese, but if you want a much deeper movie about that, it’s “Beyond Rangoon” (1995).

Fool’s Gold (3/10): Maybe the most telling commentary on this film is that even though the two leading actresses, Kate Hudson and Alexis Dziena, spend much of their time in bikinis, the best chest in the film is that of Matthew McConaughey. Hudson and McConnaughey have the two best smiles in the business. With the two of them onscreen, I wished I had my sunglasses there was such an abundance of glaring whitened teeth flashing at me in the sunshine of the Caribbean. A more derivative film you won’t see.

Chicago 10 (1/10): About the protest at the 1968 democrat convention in 1968 and the trial after, Writer-director Brett Morgen has chosen to bounce back and forth from archival footage of the actual protest to scenes of the trial using the transcript as the script. Unfortunately, instead of using archival photographs, or recreating the trial with actors, Morgen uses cartoons (actually the new-fangled motion capture technology). It’s jarring to jump from high tension newsreel footage of the protest to something that looks like Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck in the trial. I kept waiting for Judge Hoffman to say, “Eh, What’s up, Doc?”

Over Her Dead Body (1/10): There have been lots of funny films about spirits, starting with the “Topper” series in the ‘30s-40s, “Blithe Spirit,” up to and including Warren Beatty’s “Heaven Can Wait” in 1978. Unfortunately, this ineptly-written and directed, laboriously-acted effort about a bitchy woman, the poorly-cast Eva Longoria Parker, who gets killed on her wedding day and then comes back to harass the new girlfriend (Lake Bell) of her fiancé (Paul Rudd), is not one of them.

Untraceable (1/10): It’s not that this film isn’t well made, because it is. What is vile about it is that it is a textbook for various ways to torture a person to death. It is extremely difficult to watch, a disgraceful example of irresponsible filmmaking. This could have been an excellent movie without the sensationalized brutality.