“An Honest Liar” on IMDB
Biography, 90 Minutes, 2014
The first time I tried to see James “The Amazing” Randi in person was many years ago. I was living in Boston and he was appearing at MIT. A friend and I left work early and walked to the campus only to find that the auditorium was completely overrun. Well over a hundred people had already been turned away, and more were piling in behind us. We couldn’t even get a glimpse of the man.
“Hit Team” on IMDB
Action/Comedy, 96 Minutes, 2014
[Disclosure: This was screened at the request of the filmmakers. No additional considerations were made.]
This low-budget comedy, currently available for rent or purchase at FilmCanal.com, follows two bumbling hit men, Max (Myles McLane [IMDB]) and Ruthie (Emerald Robinson [IMDB]). They’ve been sent to L.A. to take out a half-dozen targets in a day-long murder spree.
“Big Eyes” on IMDB
Drama/Biography, 106 Minutes, 2014
Like all “true stories” this is difficult to review because you simply don’t know what’s fact and what’s Hollywood. In this case it’s even more difficult because while the movie is often light, the story told is desperately dark.
“Saving Mr Banks” on IMDB
Biography/Comedy/Drama, 125 Minutes, 2013
Mary Poppins [IMDB] is one of the very few inarguable classics of film. Even those curmudgeons that mock Dick Van Dyke’s [IMDB] cockney accent admit it. The story behind the making of the film is the stuff of Hollywood legend.
“Lovelace” on IMDB
Drama, 93 Minutes, 2013
This is, like most true stories, difficult to watch without wondering what the real truth is. In this case that’s made doubly difficult because the movie gives us two versions of the truth to choose from. The first may be considered the “public” and the second the “private” version of events.
“The Conspirator” on IMDB
Historical Drama, 122 Minutes, 2009
Since we covered “Lincoln” [our review] recently this seemed like a reasonable follow-up. The movie covers the trial of Mary Surratt, the lone woman accused of conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln” on IMDB
Historical Drama, 150 Minutes, 2012:
This is an excellent historical drama. There are some amazing performances, notably by Daniel Day-Lewis [IMDB] and Tommy Lee Jones [IMDB]. Focusing almost exclusively on the little understood, but intensely interesting, fight to pass the 13th amendment it’s a movie that every American should watch and understand.
“Kill the Irishman” on IMDB
Crime, 106 Minutes, 2011
I’ve been waiting for some time for Ray Stevenson [IMDB] to start getting the A-List lead roles that he clearly deserves. He’s been featured in some of the best TV on TV (HBO’s glorious “Rome” and Showtime’s “Dexter” to name two of my favorites). He’s flexible, committed and charming has hell (even when playing an evil sonofabitch). So, while I missed this when it came out, I was thrilled to see him taking the lead in a major (if lower-budget) motion picture.
The good news is that Stevenson is great. The bad news is that the movie… isn’t. While far from “bad” it does rely almost exclusively on gangster movie clichés and has some pretty serious pacing issues. It often plays as a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive story and we unfortunately never really get to truly understand the characters.
“The First Grader” on IMDB
Biography/Drama, 103 Minutes, 2010:
I honestly know very little about the Kenyan revolution (or Kenya in general actually). Like most “true stories” it’s very difficult to parse what’s being presented as actual truth. Some things are just so terrible that you hope fervently that they just can’t be true. The message of the movie concerns the unbreakable nature of the human spirit but the lesson that you’ll probably come away with, just as I did, is this:
“The King’s Speech” on IMDB
Drama, 118 Minutes, 2010
The movie is just as excellent as you’ve probably heard it is. Excellent casting. Excellent acting. Excellent writing, pacing, set design and all the rest. Just plain excellent all-around.