Monday, April 05, 2010

What I watched Easter weekend

New to me

The Nun's Story: On most Easter weekends I like to watch something with religious themes, and this film, one of the few major Audrey Hepburn vehicles I hadn't seen, turned out to be quite a fine choice. It took me by surprise at first. Seemed to me Fred Zinnemann usually directed more muscular films like High Noon or From Here to Eternity. But as I watched it, I realized it's a muscular film, it just exercises something we don't think of as a muscle: The heart. The film has just as much emotional punch as those other films, but this one is about the inner torment of Audrey as she struggles to live and serve rightly as a nun. She described this as her own personal favorite performance, and it's not hard to see why - it strongly echoes the real-life charity work to which she devoted herself. But it's also a performance of subtle power - there aren't many big emotional scenes, but Audrey, an excellent actress with her eyes -  handles them all with the grace and skill that came so effortlessly to her. GRADE A

The Uninvited: How this movie ended up in my mailbox I'm not sure; I thought it was further down in my Netflix queue. Still, I remembered why I put it there: I've always really liked Elizabeth Banks as an actress - she seems to me to have the makings of a major star, but works more like a character actress in a leading lady's body. At first I couldn't understand why she wanted to play in what I call the "[Blank] from hell" genre - in this case, she was the stepmother from hell. Or maybe just The Stepmother, since we've now had two versions of The Stepfather. Then, when I saw the film, I understood - because it's really not a "[blank] from hell" movie. I can't say what it really is without giving too much away, but I will say it's a decent little thriller. The "stings" are fairly rote - this film came at the tail end of Hollywood's fascination with Asian horror - but its well acted by Banks, and by Emily Browning, who first impressed as one of the kids in Lemony Snicket. GRADE: B 


Apollo 13: For my money, still Ron Howard's best film. It never fails to amaze me that even though we know very well everything we turn out fine in the end, this film still maintains a great deal of suspense on each subsequent viewing. GRADE: A+

Hercules: Hadn't watched this 1997 Disney film in quite awhile, and I still think it's grossly underrated. Yes, I'm sure people who know me will call "bias" but I thought that even before I got to know one of the voice artists. And I still like it better than The Lion King. So there. GRADE: A

Standing in the Shadows of Motown: Supremely (pun intended) documentary about the Funk Brothers, the stellar session musicians who played on all the great Motown classics. I pulled this one out because the tune "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" had resonated with me lately - I think this version even tops the original. Certainly made me wonder why Joan Osborne didn't have more hits. GRADE A

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