ARIZONA REPORTER



You are currently viewing the December 2008 Edition of Arizona Reporter
By Harvey Karten (AZR) - Christmas movies are here, many of them cynical comedies as befits our cynical times. Yet Christmas is also a time for giving. Getting back to our jaundiced times, however, do you wonder about the people who have extended themselves to you by contributing presents so different from the usual, with so much of the giver's own time and life behind the offering? What is your benefactor is someone you do not know, or perhaps have met once or twice? Now you're really suspicious.

SEVEN POUNDS

Columbia Pictures
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: C
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Written By: Grant Nieporte
Cast: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper
Opens: December 19, 2008
By Harvey Karten (AZR) - Slumdog Millionaire took the lion's share of awards, named best picture by New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO), composed of 27 web-based reviewers and 2 print critics with a strong online presence. Sean Penn was named best actor for his role in Milk while Sally Hawkins received best actress honors for her performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. Best director honors went to Danny Boyle and his co-director, Loveleen Tandan for Slumdog Millionaire. Heath Ledger was named best supporting actor for The Dark Knight and Penelope Cruz was selected as best supporting actress for Vicki Cristina Barcelona. 4 Months, 3 Weeks 2 Days was NYFCO's choice for best foreign film, while best documentary honors went to Man on Wire.
Two international science projects - one led by The University of Arizona, and one with considerable UA involvement - lead Time Magazine's list of Top 10 Scientific Discoveries, crowning a year of unprecedented science achievement for Arizona's land grant university.

Time ranked the Large Hadron Collider - the massive particle accelerator straddling the swiss-French border - at the top of the 2008 list. The Phoenix Mars Mission ranked second.

The University of Arizona has a significant stake in both.

Movie Reviews
LAST CHANCE HARVEY

Nobody has yet thought of a better way to live than within families. The hippies tried during the sixties and early seventies, but how much of their life-style is around now? The kibbutz was a noble experiment in Israel, but only two percent of that country's citizens are members now-and even that system has come under criticism from psychologists.

Movie Reviews
GRAN TORINO

By Harvey Karten (AZR) - This Gran Torino has as its potential passengers a mixed group of people who are stereotyped throughout, with awfully silly dialogue and old-fashioned acting. This might please some in the audience who want to reminisce about the grand old movies like "Boys Town" and "Men of Boys Town" with Spencer Tracy in the role of Father Flanagan—determined to say the young 'uns. Clint Eastwood both directs and anchors the production, taking the role of Walt Kowalski, an old salt in an inner-city Detroit neighborhood where political correctness is ignored by the blue-collar types who revel in calling one another by every racial and ethnic pejorative in the books lest they be considered girly-men. Walt Kowalski is no girly-man, nor is his aging Golden Labrador Retriever, Daisy—who at the time of the story's opening is not only the man's best friend but the only one.

Warner Bros.
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: C
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Nick Schenk from Dave Johannson and Nick Schenk's story
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Hughes, John Carroll Lynch, Cory Hardrict, Dreama Walker, Brian Haley
Opens: December 17, 2008

Movie Reviews
Nothing But The Truth

By Harvey Karten (AZR) - A well-acted, if mechanically driven, story based on the complex Valerie Plame Wilson affair—which dealt with the repercussions of outing the truth about the alleged attempt of Saddam Hussein to buy uranium from Niger—"Nothing But the Truth" thankfully simplifies the dynamics that might have gone into a documentary. As a result, theatergoers are treated to a oft-time melodramatic story that would please anybody who likes films based on John Grisham's novels. While the folks in the audience to the left of Attila the Hun will side with a journalist who is put on trial for refusing to name a source of information that led to a front-page story in her newspaper, Rod Lurie's tale, directed by the screenwriter, is a nicely-paced job that has us admiring America's founding fathers who penned the First Amendment, albeit two years after they hammered out the rest. (For the benefit of those who went to public high schools, that addition to the Constitution in 1791 guarantees that Congress shall make no law abridging our freedom of speech.)

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

Yari Film Group
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: B
Directed and Written by: Rod Lurie
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, David Schwimmer, Courtney B. Vance, Noah Wyle
Opens: December 19, 2008

Movie Reviews
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

By Harvey Karten (AZR) - Thirty years ago a colleague of mine, a fellow high-school teacher, moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. to a Long Island 'burb'. I was stunned, because this guy is urbane and regularly told his English classes to question not only authority but commonly held ideas as well. (He moved back to New York within a month.) The idea, of course, was the American Dream: that living with a spouse, two kids and a dog, surrounded by a white picket fence, equals lifelong happiness. What misfortune befalls to the two principals in "Revolutionary Road" may not be entirely the fault of their move to the suburbs, but leaving the city after they had kids didn't help their situation.

Paramount Vantage
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: B+
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written By: Justin Haythe, from Richard Yates's novel
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Dylan Baker, Richard Easton, Zoe Kazan, Jay O. Sanders, Max Casella
Opens: December 26, 2008
By Harvey Karten (AZR) - Scheduled to open just weeks after "Revolutionary Road," "Just Another Love Story" centers on a similar theme. In the former film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, a husband and wife tire of their suburban digs and dull neighbors, thinking that moving permanently to Paris might be just the right medicine. In Ole Bomedal's Danish film (with English subtitles), a man with a Walter Mitty imagination dreams of leaving his own suburban humdrum existence with its ritual of supermarket shopping on Saturdays with his wife and two kids and living or re-living a life of danger, passion, and love. The trouble is that unlike Frank and April Wheeler in Sam Mendes's "Revolutionary Road" who can legitimately make the move, he steals another's identity. While identity theft in the U.S. rarely goes further than ripping off another's credit card, the principal character in Ole Bomedal's movie puts his very life into jeopardy.

Koch Lorber Films
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: B
Directed and Written by: Ole Bornedal
Cast: Andrew W. Berthelsen, Charlotte Fich, Rebecka Hemse, Dejan Cukic, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Opens: January 9, 2008

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In Our Last Issue

  • REVIEW, ROB THE MOB

    "Rob the Mob," which is based on an actual adventure by two naive lovers who raided and ripped off money and jewelry from mafia "social clubs," is all the more amazing for being true. In the hands of director Raymond De Felitta, whose "City Island" is a delightfully funny tale of a dad whose poker nights are really spent going to an acting class, the tale reaches proportions that can be compared to the classic film "Bonnie and Clyde" with some aspects that could remind some of "American Hustle." The film includes a passionate romance of a couple that can make you believe the scene involving sex in a tiny phone booth, a rehash of the 1991 arrest of mafia chieftain John Gotti, and a family drama about a young man who makes too few visits to his mother and kid brother to impress them even though he offers them an envelope filled with more cash than they could make in five years. The story is filled with some fine actors, especially Michael Pitt, who starred in the extraordinary crime story "Funny Games," and Andy Garcia, who can make you believe that his character really is "Big Al," a mafia boss who rose from selling Italian rice balls on a cart to opening a popular Italian restaurant in New York.
  • NON-STOP - Grade: A-

    The year is young but already two movies will not likely increase its financial health by screenings on in-flight entertainment. The first, "The Wind Rises," a fictionalized biography of the man who developed the Zero planes used in the Pearl Harbor attack, is a Japanese animated feature. Planes crash before the engineer comes to the rescue. "Non-Stop" is animated in another way, a live-action thriller about an airline hijacker who demands $150 million or "one passenger will die every twenty minutes." Given that the villain, identity revealed near the conclusion, is aware that an armed air marshal is on board, one wonders how he thinks he would get away with killing more than one person before he is felled. But that's just one of the holes.
  • REVIEW - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

    In Jeff Buckley's song "Hymne a l'amour," a man sings to his partner, "When at last our life on earth is through/I will share eternity with you." That sounds like something a guy would say in the heat of passion when he's about twenty-five years old. To spend eternity with anyone, even your beloved pet terrier, is unlikely, but thanks to Jim Jarmusch, we know that love can last if not for eternity, then for about a thousand years and still counting.
  • 3 Days To Kill - A Two Hour Diversion

    Filmmaker Luc Besson ("The Professional," "The Transporter") is obviously obsessed with various permutations of the father-daughter relationship. So it's not surprising that Besson co-scripted this action thriller with Adi Hasak, leaving the direction to McG ("Charlie's Angels," "Terminator Salvation"). Problem is: they obviously couldn't decide whether this is an explosive espionage saga or madcap parental mayhem, revolving around balancing work and family. So they commit to neither.
  • Winter's Tale - A Stardust-Sprinkled Journey

    Back in 1980, my brother (Stephen Simon) made "Somewhere in Time," a supernatural fantasy starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. It was crucified by critics and didn't gain popularity until it was released on DVD, where it's stayed one of the most popular cinematic romances of the twentieth century. I suspect "Winter's Tale" will suffer a similar fate. In our cynical culture, it's difficult to suspend disbelief and gain box-office traction for a wondrous, logic-defying love story that transcends time and space.
  • The Psychology of Fun

    What does play mean? It might be a sport or a game of charades or playing a musical instrument. It can be gaming or going to an amusement park. There are no limitations. When I was a child, our family played board games and card games, along with physical games, like baseball, horseshoes, Ping-Pong and badminton. We flew kites (still do), camped out (still do), built model airplanes and acted out our fantasies pretending to be knights and soldiers. We improvised and invented, often packing knapsacks with snacks to go hiking and exploring in the woods.
  • REVIEW, LONE SURVIVOR

    When Touchstone Pictures released 'Pearl Harbor' in 2001, the studio was apparently so afraid of the impact on Americans of the Japanese victory over our naval shipyard that director Michael Bay tacked on a feel-good ending. Specifically, by adding the Doolittle Raid, a big American success on April 18, 1942 on Tokyo and Honshu Island, we showed 'em that their territory was vulnerable to a U.S. military action. No such saccharine finale from Peter Berg, who directs and wrote the script for "Lone Survivor." The title serves as a spoiler, if you will, telling us in the audience that only one U.S. combatant survived a brutal battle between the elite SEALs and the Taliban in an Afghan village.
  • BIG BAD WOLVES (Mi mefahed mezeev hara)

    Anyone who thinks that Israelis cannot mount an exciting thriller has not seen the American copy of "Hostages," which ended its run in January. The Americans who picked up the program may have invented their own version, but it's pretty close to the one shown in Israel starring Ayelet Zurir and picked up whole by the BBC. Then again, who better than Israel to put on something like this when America's only reliable ally in the Middle East suffered the kidnapping of Corporal Shalit and who many years back, justifiably kidnapped Adolph Eichmann in Argentina effectively scoring at least a modicum of revenge on one of the world's most evil men?
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