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Thumbnails May 17

by Tony Medley

The Promise (10/10): This is a movie that has been crying to be made for a century. It graphically reveals the shameful Turkish genocide of over 1 million Armenians during WWI, something that is a fact of history but which the Turks deny. Turkey is an ally of ours, yet we let them get away with these denials. We should not fear to speak the truth. Starring Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and with a bravura performance by Charlotte Le Bon, this tells the tale via a love story among the three stars. It captures the desolation of the Armenians and the cold-blooded cruelty of the Muslim Turks, who massacred men, women, and children with impunity. Kudos to the producers of this film for using art to reveal the Turkish cruelty for the entire world to see.

Their Finest (9/10): Highlighted by award-quallity performances by Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy this is a terrifically involving tale of a woman who becomes involved in making a movie in London during The Blitz in 1940. While the start was a little slow, as in most movies, it shortly started to blow me away. I don’t expect to see a better performance than Arterton’s the rest of the year. As far as Nighy goes, I think this is his best performance, by far. The film shows that making a movie is like making a sausage. If you watch one being made you never want to eat one. But if you don’t watch what goes into making a movie and all you see is the final result, it can captivate you, as this one did me. There is nothing about this film that lets you down. The supporting cast is terrific and there’s even a fine cameo by Jeremy Irons as the Secretary of War.

Paris Can Wait (8/10) For 81 year old writer/director/producer, Eleanor Coppola, this is an amazing achievement. This is the semi-autobiographical but scintillating story based upon an incident that occurred to Coppola when she was in her mid-70s. The stretch is that Coppola is a long way from Diane Lane, who plays her in this film. Lane, at 52, is more beautiful than most of the ingénues who populate Hollywood today and will never be confused with a 73-year-old woman. But this is a movie and it needs a woman a man will yearn for. That man is Arnaud Viard, a modern day Maurice Chevalier who drives Lane to Paris from the Riviera while she waits for her husband to return from Budapest. Along the way he treats her to a gorgeous tour of France, all the while subtly trying to seduce her. We see terrific scenes of France, wonderful meals to which he introduces her, incredible locales, wonderful acting, enticingly slow pace, and delicious dialogue reminiscent of My Dinner with Andre (1981).

The Fate of the Furious (8/10): This is a surprise, more James Bondish than car crash-centric (although there are car crashes and chases aplenty). Mostly it’s a steal from Ian Fleming with an evil egomaniac (Charlize Theron) out to take control of the world by finagling Vin Diesel into working for her and against his Fast and Furious Gang, headed by Dwayne Johnson and including Jason Statham and Michele Rodriguez. While it starts out with a really silly car race through the streets of Havana, it morphs into a thriller with more story than the others have presented. Lovingly photographed by Stephen F. Windon, Theron has never appeared more beautiful, malevolent though she may be.

The Lost City of Z (8/10): Based on the life of British explorer Lt. Col. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnan) who kept leaving behind his wife (Sienna Miller) to find what he thought might be a lost city in the Amazon. As a fly in the ointment, he takes along an adventurer (Angus Macfayden), who, predictably, turns out to be a pain in the neck. The film is far too long, 140 minutes, but the cinematography and locales are captivating, the story compelling, and Miller so gorgeous it strains credulity that any man would leave her behind time and again to spend years in a jungle full of snakes, piranhas, and headhunters.

Free Fire (0/10): Nihilistic abhorrently violent nonsense.

 Recommended Reading: “The Marriage Lie” by Kimberly Belle, a good thriller and “Six Encounters with Lincoln,” by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, a warts and all revisionist view of Honest Abe showing how he was viewed by his contemporaries before his assassination elevated him to irreproachable sainthood.