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The Beauty of Film: Seven Samurai

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Seven Samurai — Asaichi Nakai (photography) & Akira Kurosawa (director):

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Takashi Shimura takes aim as Kambei in 1954’s Seven Samurai.

 

St. Vincent

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So this Irish guy knocks on this lady’s door and says, you know, “Have you got any, uh… Any, uh… work for me?” And she says, “Um, well, you now, as a matter of fact, you could paint the porch.” But two hours later, he comes back and says, “I’m finished, ma’am, but just for your information, it’s not a Porsche, it’s a BMW.”

Find that amusing? If so, then you will probably enjoy the film. If not, then you will need to hang in for about an hour and forty minutes until the film becomes sufficiently emotional to get you to like it on that level instead. With a name like “Saint Vincent”, judgment is immediately going to be in your mind, so Vincent, telling his joke in a smoky bar in Brooklyn, kind of sets you on the path of thinking the term “saint” is used ironically.

Vincent and Oliver (Murray and Lieberher) in the Weinstein Cos.' St. Vincent, © 2014.

Vincent and Oliver (Murray and Lieberher) in the Weinstein Cos.’ St. Vincent, © 2014.

After a rocky start, Bill Murray demonstrates that there is more to playing Vincent than typical grumpy-late-career-Bill-Murray. Perhaps it comes from Theodore Melfi’s screenplay. Or perhaps it comes from Theodore Melfi’s directing. Either way Theodore Melfi elicits Murray’s best performance since Lost in Translation. Moving next door to him is Maggie—Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids—a medical technician whose custody over her son Oliver–Jaeden Lieberher–comes into question as Maggie’s ex-husband fights for partial custody. Thus the unlikeliest of role models, drunken gambler Vincent, gets roped into watching over Oliver. Complicating things is Vincent’s “lady of the night”, Daka. Naomi Watts plays Daka, but in spite of Watts’ skill as an actress—she shone in this same year’s Birdman—Daka comes across as a character from a cheesy comedy. Her Russian accent is terrible. Her manner is humorously brusque. Ah well, one bad bite a bad meal does not make. ***½

The Beauty of Film: Ong-bak

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Ong-bak — Nattawut Kittikhun (cinematographer) & Prachya Pinkaew (director):

Tony Jaa being amazing in Ong-bak.

Tony Jaa being amazing in Ong-bak.

This is as good a time as any to say that I will be making a list of the best foreign films. Please leave you recommendations in the comments below.