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The Pelican Brief

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***½

Everyone I have told about the brief is dead.

There are several cheesy things about this movie: the drunken law professor, the unrealistic, unlikeable President—okay, it seems like a prescient prediction of President George W. Bush.

Balanced against that are some very cool things: good actors giving good performances—Denzel Washington, Stanley Tucci, John Heard—a fascinating story, and legal intrigue.

Julia Roberts did not make either of those lists. Partially that is because I did not find her as attractive as the men of this movie’s world considered her. I held her character’s flaws against her, so that was probably not fair of me, but it made her hard to root for. But beyond her and the cheese it held up very well for 1993 and John Grisham.

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True Grit

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****

You couldn’t see it if you saw it. 

First, I am not a John Wayne fan. Second, I had seen clips from this on TV over the years, and it always seemed so cheesy. Third, I loved the Coen Brother’s remake. Still, viewed from the beginning, this is a much deeper movie than I anticipated. The humor comes to lighten the dark mood. The music is great and the views are amazing.

John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn was the role of a lifetime. This Mattie Ross–Kim Darby–is wonderful. So many great performances, but they had such great things to say, thanks to the novel by Charles Portis and the screenplay by Marguerite Roberts. Henry Hathaway directed this and made some excellent choices for what to include, add, and utilize.

The one scene that sold me on this film was the hanging. Showing the hullaballoo that hangings were, the hypocrisy of leading prayers before an execution, and the showcase—”hot tamales here!”  Normally the film would root for the death of its antagonist, or for him to be brought back alive to face trial. This film wonderfully does not take a side, but gives the viewer what he does not expect.

The Best Directors: A Series—Stanley Kubrick

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I have seen six of Stanley Kubrick’s films, but not 2001 or The Shining, which might be a bit surprising. My favorite films of his are some of his earliest—Paths of Glory and Spartacus. My third favorite is A Clockwork Orange, although saying favorite about it makes it sound like fun, which would make about as much sense as listening to “Singing in the Rain” during a home invasion. The other three are famous, but only pretty good: Lolita, Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket.

Through those films Kubrick spanned decades and crossed genres. Both Paths of Glory and Spartacus have battles and uniforms, but depart from the traditional war films and sword and sandal flicks. They both star Kirk Douglas, so I suppose that means, he was Kubrick’s greatest collaborator. Peter Sellers may be his best remembered collaborator, but two madmen in a film might be one madman too many.

He hated war, violence, and politicians. He loved those who could endure suffering, those who made the best of difficult situations, and those who had a gallows’s humor. Watch any of his films and you can see those beliefs; watch them all and you will start to believe them too.

Unguarded & The Best That Never Was

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****

And with the 33rd pick the Denver Nuggets select Chris Herren.

This ESPN Films production almost made me cry at the end. To see so many men cry while talking about their brother, their player, or their husband weakened me.  To see that man open up and admit to all the hurt by his addictions was extremely powerful.

I do not remember Chris Herren from the Nuggets or from the Celtics, but this local Massachusetts man playing for Boston College and later the Celtics…was just a tragic figure. To see how he has turned his life around and how he tells his story seemed like a lazy documentary idea, but Jonathan Hock brought the goods. I heard that his The Lost Son of Havana, a documentary on Luis Tiant, was great, but never got to see it—now I will have to check it out.

****

The Best That Never Was — I just looked up what 30 for 30 that Jonathan Hock did and that was it. It was an amazing look at another figure who shone brightly and everyone locally attached themselves to him. Both of these stories are amazingly moving and well done. Unguarded was about basketball, but that does not matter. Similarly, this one is about football, but it is really about human being who had more talent and less help than almost anyone else ever—Marcus Dupree.

The King’s Speech

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****½

Surely a prince’s brain knows what its mouth is doing? 

I love this fucking cast: Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce and Timothy Spall. And everyone is just great in it. Everyone gets a redeeming characteristic, even that f’n Nazi King Edward–Guy Pearce.

I will skip explaining this movie, since it won the Best Picture Oscar just this year. The vocal performances were all exceptional, with one failure. Whoever they got to perform as Hitler had an awful German accent. Instead of enunciating he just yelled and tossed his arm up in the air like an angry buffoon. More impressive is how Tom Hooper makes a speech seem like a truly important occasion. Lastly, this film has an R-rating but just for a few F-bombs, to which I say, fuck that.

Wall-E

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****

Because at BnL, space is the final “FUN-tier”!

I Instantly distrusted this movie—what’s with the towers of trash taller than skyscrapers? But then it appears that Wall-E has been building them pyramid style. Trust is the key to the proper suspension of disbelief and later leeway in a movie.  As Steven Spielberg said, regarding the ending of Jaws, “If I have them for two hours, they will believe it.” The key to that statement is that the director cannot lose the audience right away. I had to care about Wall-E or I would have lost interest in the film. Next question—what is this other robot–Eva–doing? It’s answer is “classified.” Since I got my first answer, I trust that this too will be answered.

Star Wars sound effects. Some cheesy jokes, showing how superior Eva is to Wall-E. Would a lighter still light after so many years? Humans are fat and pampered, but seem to be the slaves of this ship–The Axiom–indoctrinated by it since birth. On the bright side, humans will choose freedom over pleasurable slavery. I did not see the villain coming, which is always impressive. A nice mixture of dumb jokes and deep thoughts—but this time, with animated robots!

The Best Directors: A Series—Peter Jackson

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The Lord of the Rings, taken as a whole, is an amazing undertaking and an enjoyable film. The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best films of all-time. I understand that a minority do not like it, but it is one of the best made films that I have ever seen. Even without the degree of difficulty of taking Tolkien’s work and putting it on the big screen, it still stands out as a beautiful film with a well developed ensemble. The extended editions improved Fellowship and redeemed Two Towers, but Return of the King was fine as it was in the theater. Fortunately the extended edition did nothing to hamper the existing quality of it.

I have seen two other Peter Jackson movies since LOTR: King Kong and The Lovely Bones. I loved King Kong, but it looks like a movie that I will not want to see again. I thought the same thing about Three Kings, and I still have not seen it for a second time. The Lovely Bones, on the other hand, was not a movie I loved. The same traits that allowed Peter Jackson to create a wonderful world in LOTR hurt him in The Lovely Bones. The story needed to move quicker and the CG scenes were less necessary. Fortunately, he is headed back to Middle Earth for two Hobbit movies, and I cannot wait for them.

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