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

  • 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?
  • REVIEW, THE PAST (Le passé)

    If this were one of the abundant numbers of sitcoms about family dysfunction, the moral might be something as vacuous as "Don't mess with married men." But "The Past" is a serious drama written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, whose previous entry, "A Separation," looks closely at a family that must make a serious choice: A couple must decide whether to leave Iran for rosier shores, or stay put in that repressive state in order to care for a mother afflicted with Alzheimer's. So what might be this serious writer-director's moral for "The Past?" "Don't mess with married men." Sounds simple, but "Le passé" as it's called in France where it was filmed, is delightfully complex, filled with almost as many twists and surprises that you'd find in a story by Stephen King or Sophocles, or Shakespeare, or for that matter just about any writer who gets jollies messing with the minds of the audience.
  • THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

    Does money buy happiness? Philosophers and ordinary people have debated this question since the ancient Greeks. The latest from the folks who write self-help books is that when you're poor, money counts. You can added increments of happiness up to $75,000 annually. What you earn after that brings a few additional happiness credits but to an ever-decreasing extent. In fact, once you pass, maybe, the million mark, you actually become less happy, which could be because you've seen it and done it all. When nothing's new under the sun, what's the point? Martin Scorsese deals with that last point in "The Wolf of Wall Street," based on the title character's own book confessing all.
  • Lone Survivor - Brutal and Sobering

    Writer/director Peter Berg has created an unflinching, action-packed war film about a guerilla skirmish in June, 2005, in the war in Afghanistan, as recalled by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg).
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Relentlessly Respectful

    Talk about perversely uncanny timing: two of Nelson Mandela's daughters were attending the premiere of this biopic in London when they received news of their 94 year-old father's death. And renewed global interest, following the televised funeral of the beloved former South African president, has propelled the box-office for this dutiful docudrama.
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