Dinner Rush

This GREAT review arrived from one of your colleagues awhile back. I've thought about it and I'm going to share it. I've seen this movie since, but I still want to use this review:

"Dinner Rush" is a 2002 movie which is a feast for the eyes and the senses; a story which revolves around about friendship, family and personal relationships. The film primarily depicts events that take place over one night in a family-owned Italian restaurant during dinner rush.

The clash of generations is reflected in the menu ,which has been changed by the displacement of classic family recipes with trendy gourmet specials. There are no real surprises and the direction it takes is pretty transparent, still it is nicely done.

There are lots of good performances, with an ensemble of characters similar to Altman films. It manages to highlight just about every human emotion through the preparation and presentation of food. It is about art and revenge well savored and "la vendetta è un piatto che si gusta freddo."


The Painted Veil

There is something about a love story between a husband and wife...

This is the latest version of a classic Somerset Maugham story which stars Edward Norton ("The Italian Job" and "The Illusionist") as a middle-class doctor who marries a flighty, spoiled upper-class woman, played by Naomi Watts ("King Kong" and "Mulholland Drive"). He is certain that she will fall in love with him AFTER they marry, and she just wants to get away from her conniving mother. This is not an auspicious beginning for any marriage, but when he moves them to a 1920s Shanghai, things go from bad to worse. To punish her for her frivolous escapades with Liev Shreiber ("The Manchurian Candidate"), he forces her to trek with him to the inland of China where they are confronted with a cholera epidemic.

Toby Jones ("Infamous" and "Amazing Grace") is a British official, gone to seed; and Diana Rigg ("Mystery" and "The Avengers") is a Catholic nun who runs the local orphanage. Of course, their work is flawless. With five leading actors of this caliber, you just can't go wrong.

The two leads are also the producers of this movie and they have done a marvelous job. The movie was shot on location in China and once again, I am reminded that the unbelievably steep mountains depicted in those stylized Chinese prints are NOT an exaggeration! The cinematography is stunning!

This one is a keeper...


Amazing Grace

It has occurred to me that England probably has about 50 top movie stars. That's why we recognize so many of them each time a new movie comes out. At least in this movie they are in England, speaking English, and playing Englishmen, instead of showing up our blokes from The Colonies again pretending to be from this side of the Pond.

This one boasts Ioan Gruffudd ("The Forsyte Saga" and "Horatio Hornblower"), Ciarán Hinds ("Persuasion" and "Rome" - he was Julius Caesar), Toby Jones ("Infamous" and "Ever After"), Albert Finney ("Tom Jones" and "Erin Brockovich"), Michael Gambon ("Gosford Park" and "Longitude"), and Rupert Graves ("The Illusionist" and "The Forsyte Saga") ...familiar faces, all!

This is the true story of the cleric/politician William Wilberforce, who fought British slave trading most of his career. He was troubled by chronic ill health, but was singlemindedly devoted to the cause. Prime Minister William Pitt was a chum from their early manhood and the two of them connived, counted votes, campaigned and generally fought the good fight up to and including victory, which took decades of frustrating and unrelenting struggle. Albert Finney plays John Newton, the reformed slave trader who becomes a part-time cleric, doing penance for the lives he destroyed through his enterprises. He is also the gentleman who wrote the classic song, "Amazing Grace." (Which, by the way, can be played by using only the black keys on the piano.)

This is a nice movie and you learn a lot about the history of Great Britain (it too, was built on the backs of slaves) and the legal maneuvers Parliament went through as it inched its way toward finally prohibiting it. His plea for concluding the war with the Colonies is an interesting one and it is greeted with unanimous jeers. I appreciate this film much more on DVD because I have had the luxury of closed captions to help me understand the nuances of the lawmaking process and his courtship of the lady who eventually became his wife and the mother of his children.

Gruffudd is a handsome fellow who is onscreen 95% of the time. Luckily, the camera loves his face. The actress playing his wife is a young woman named Romola Garai (I wonder if she too, is Welsh!); she is a beauty! I have never seen her before but hope to see her again soon. This time Rupert Graves isn't a handsome villain, but instead a devoted churchman who is part of the group of people dedicated to abolishing slavery. Rupert, I hardly knew ye!

Lots of rainy British weather, and NO blowie-uppie stuff!

Keeping Mum

When was the last time you saw a REALLY black-humored British comedy? This one is a dandy! Recommended by the Swedish branch of JayFlix, I finally got a look at it a couple of days ago.

First of all, the cast:
  • Maggie Smith ("Ladies in Lavender" and "Harry Potter") a just-paroled murderer, now hired as a housekeeper
  • Kristen Scott Thomas ("The English Patient" and "The Horse Whisperer") a frustrated minister's wife
  • Rowan Atkinson ("Four Weddings..." and "The Black Adder") the frustrating minister
  • Patrick Swayze ("Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost") a smarmy golf pro
  • Tamsin Egerton (I think she's new) a gorgeous young actress who is the minister's precocious daughter!
The minister's family lives next door to an annoying neighbor who has a constantly yapping dog, Clarence. The minister is such an excruciatingly boring speaker, his wife stays in bed; she can't bear to sit through his sermons any more. He is totally oblivious.

An elderly member of the congregation has a chronic problem with the flower arranging committee...AND she's snoopy! The daughter is not only beautiful, she's promiscuous. The son is bullied by his classmates simply because he is the minister's son. The golf pro is on the make...all the time...

Enter Grace, the newly hired housekeeper. In no time at all, she assesses the situation and starts to rectify things at the rectory. To watch her kick into action is a treat, even though you will probably recoil from some of her methods.

I will emphasize: This is a BLACK comedy, but it's fun just the same. These are great actors who play characters who run true to form and you can't help but cheer them on. Just remember to suspend disbelief! (...and remember, blood will tell...)


Captains Courageous

This one presented a problem to me; it is based on Rudyard Kipling's book and was filmed in 1937. It is a black-and-white classic, starring Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, John Carradine, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney and others you would recognize. My problem: I didn't see it available in my catalogs but now it's available on DVD. ...please, please avoid the remakes! The original is a four-star dandy that is guaranteed to excite you with the fishing boat activities, put a lump in your throat on occasion and make you want to shake that selfish little brat when you first meet him! It is an ultimate morality tale and a wonderful lesson in child rearing!

This is the story of a spoiled rich boy (Bartholomew) who is demanding, imperious, conniving and mean. He throws his father's wealth and power in his opponents' faces and is completely out of control. His classmates at his private school "Send him to Coventry" (shunned) because he is such a pill. This results in his being suspended from school for the rest of the semester. While crossing the Atlantic with his businessman father, he falls overboard in the fog and is picked up in the Grand Banks Cod Fishery by good-hearted Portuguese fisherman Tracy, who plays a hurdy-gurdy and sings!

The boy's imperious ways have no weight on a hard-working fishing boat (Barrymore is the captain) and they have to finish out the season before taking him to shore. Little by little, he learns the business and it is obvious that he is uncommonly bright, but he has certainly been spoiled! There are no villains in this movie, only the bad habits he himself has accumulated.

You will come to respect what the actors went through while filming this piece: cold, wet, rowing boats, handling both live and dead fish, baiting hooks, carrying slops up a ladder, heaving the catch up into a hold with pitchforks, spitting into the wind ...smile..., etc., etc.

From a technical point of view, please watch and appreciate how long some of the scenes are, lengthy conversations between Bartholomew and Tracy in ONE TAKE! Amazing! Group shots with Barrymore, Carradine and Tracy, long, single takes! Tracy and the cook chatting in Portuguese!

The adults in this movie are intelligent, caring, and clearly want the best for the boy. The lessons he learns about fair play, hard work and honor are good ones that you are convinced will stay with him for the rest of his life.

This is a great movie for youngsters: No bad language, one death at sea that has already been "softened," wonderful lessons about cheating, keeping one's word, etc. It is a good "discussion" movie AND my DVD from Amazon has closed captions!

I agree with Leonard Maltin's four stars! ****


Train Man: Densha Okoto

The subtitle for this odd little Japanese film is "A love story for the Geek in all of us." I'm sure you will agree.

After much debate, I decided to send out this review to you fans of foreign films because I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet little romance, even though some scenes are waaay over the top. Japanese films tend to get over-emotional at times and this one certainly does, but there is enough humor and humanity to make it pay off in the long run.

Long story short, a drunk is abusing other riders on a commuter train. He is particularly focused on a slender young woman who, along with all the other commuters, is trying in vain to ignore him. A bespectacled geek, laptop in hand, finally, ...and fearfully, steps up to her defense. At the next stop, the police take the drunk into custody but the two principals are asked to come to the police station to give their statements. This leads to a very tentative introduction between these two painfully shy characters.

He can't wait to go home and share his experience on his blog. At this point we become acquainted with his regular correspondents: Three nerds who hang on every word, overreact to each event and are, to my way of thinking, sort of a Three Stooges for the new millennium; a nurse who has by her computer mouse, a snapshot of her and her boyfriend, torn into pieces; a housebound young man who has his meals left at his bedroom door; a businessman who comes home, puts down his briefcase and heads straight for his keyboard; a housewife who would rather eat takeout and surf the Internet, than cook.

Now our young geek wants to get better acquainted with the shy young woman and all of his Internet pals cheer him on. The delightful part is watching him try to become someone he isn't, in a tentative attempt to woo her. His fellow bloggers offer bits of advice and it's clear that they see him as their alter ego, so they are very invested in his success or failure.

This is lots of fun, just bear with those few typically Japanese over- extended and emotional scenes, okay? You can probably obtain this DVD from the library.