Thumbnails June 2010
by Tony Medley
Babies (10/10): Thomas Balmes’ French
documentary of four babies living the first year of their lives in four
different parts of the world, Nambia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San
Francisco, is captivating. Without a word of narrative, the phenomenal
photography tells the story of the wonder of new life, drawing a telling
dichotomy between a the way the yuppie San Francisco couple raise their
child with bottle feeding, yoga classes, and cleaning her with a lint
roller vs. the way the half naked African woman raises her naked child,
breast-feeding and hands-on, as the baby crawls in the dirt, plays with
goats, and drinks out of creeks.
Solitary Man (10/10): Michael Douglas gives
a bravura performance in this compelling story of how charm and charisma
can lead a man down a primrose path. Uncredited Olivia Thrilby gives a
scintillating performance in a short, but pivotal, role near the end of
the film as Jesse Eisenberg’s girl friend. Acutely directed by Brian
Koppelman (who also wrote) and David Levien, who based it on the “kings
of New York” they observed while growing up. Without giving anything
away, it ends the way I would have ended it. As Monroe Starr would say
in “The Last Tycoon” (1976), that’s the movies.
The Secret in Their Eyes (10/10): Writer/
Director Juan José Campanella studies loneliness using a rape/murder
mystery to tell a story of unspoken love and chances missed. Also thrown
in are references to Perónista
Argentina and the political favoritism that followed. This is a terrific
entertainment. In Spanish.
Letters to Juliet (8/10): Channeling the
syrupy 1962 romance Rome Adventure, Director Gary Winick throws
in lots of spectacular views of Italy which, combined with Amanda
Seyfried’s second excellent performance in a row, make this a fine, if
Exit Through the Gift Shop (8/10): Is this a
huge put on by street artist Banksy (who directed), or is Thierry Gueta
(who is the subject of the film, and who took the pseudonym “Mr.
Brainwash”) really legit? Who cares? This interesting film shows how the
multitudes can be scammed by junk art.
Harry Brown (7/10): Michael Caine is at the
top of his form as he goes out on his own in a cruel world to get
revenge for his best friend killed by young London toughs. There are a
few distasteful scenes, but this is a high-tension film, with some
violence, that doesn’t let up.
Robin Hood (4/10): Ignoring the legend that
spawned at least one good movie, Errol Flynn’s 1938 saga (in three strip
Technicolor, a fun movie in eye-popping color), Ridley Scott and Brian
Glazer make the same mistake of 2004’s “King Arthur,” and tell a
completely different, boring, ridiculous story. Despite the stars, Kevin
Durand as a charismatic Little John gives the most memorable
performance, reminding me of a young Sean Connery. When Maid Marion (Cate
Blanchett) dons helmet and chain mail to engage in war with the French
to thwart an invasion, they went too far; it’s laughable. I wasn't
expecting much and I was disappointed.
Iron Man 2 (4/10 for gals; 8/10 for guys):
As Destiny’s Child sang in 2008, “all you fellas leave your girl with
her friends.” This is a high octane, low intellect, mindless Hollywood
movie full of special effects and car crashes and violence. The only
performances from the A-list cast worth watching are by Larry Shandling
as a cloying United States Senator (but I repeat myself) and Sam
Rockwell as the bad guy.
Oceans (1/10): Could the script (written by
seven different people) have been more uninformative? Could Pierce
Brosnan have read it more soporifically? I don’t think so.