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Tag Archives: Reel reviews

Zero Dark Thirty

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By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net The beginning of “Zero Dark Thirty” is controversial and unsettling. Shortly after the first scene at the World Trade Center, the site changes. A CIA operative has an Al-Qaeda member in a dank dungeon – a “black site” – somewhere in Pakistan. It’s 2003. What makes the scene disturbing is the sequence of torture that takes place – slapping, naked abuse, waterboarding and ultimately forcing the prisoner, Ammar (Reda Kateb) into a tiny box. What makes the scene controversial is the question it raises. Some observers think it glorifies torture. Others believe it demonstrates that torture ... Read More »

“Anna Karenina”

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REEL REVIEWS By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” is generally considered one of the greatest novels ever written. It’s been made into movies 13 times, and the Greta Garbo/Fredric March version of 1935 is widely recognized at the best. This latest edition is a balletic show-within-a-show that dances back and forth from footlights to backstage to “reality”. Despite the heroic staging, magnificent settings of St. Petersburg and Moscow of the late 1800’s, and a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, it falls far short. Keira Knightley as Anna is beautiful, but unconvincing. Jude Law is excellent, but wasted as her ... Read More »

BOND AT 50

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REEL REVIEWS  By Monte Lazarus  Bengoshi@comcast.net For the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond movies, “Skyfall” is a perfect fit. Daniel Craig ranks one or two with Sean Connery as the best Bond of all. This Bond is very different. He’s not the suave, sophisticated James of yore, although he manages to handle a tuxedo fairly well. This is a gritty, darker Bond. This one can handle a motorcycle with the best while being able to play baccarat with the wealthiest. Of course, “Bond – James Bond” has his romantic moments, but they are momentary as he proceeds from peril ... Read More »

FLIGHT

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REEL REVIEWS By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net Don’t be fooled by the title. “Flight” has very little to do with aviation; it has a lot to do about character, lies and deception, and morality. And, it’s beautifully done. The superb Denzel Washington plays “Whip” Whitaker, a first-rate airline pilot who is also an alcoholic, drug user and carouser. In the opening scene, Whitaker awakens after a night of sex and booze, lights one of innumerable cigarettes, gulps down a drink and snorts some cocaine. His lady of the night, a flight attendant, reminds him that he has a trip coming up ... Read More »

REEL REVIEWS: DOUBLE FEATURE

By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net “ARBITRAGE” Richard Gere moves through “Arbitrage” like a sleek panther. Everything about him oozes wealth: not the Trump type of display, but the understated Gramercy Park Mansion type of polished dark wood and quiet elegance. Gere plays Robert Miller. As Miller, Gere is no longer the much younger playboy type of millionaire he played in “Pretty Woman”. He’s much older; his hair is wavy white; his face is more chiseled; his demeanor is suave, but cynical and dismissive of lesser mortals. He’s serious and so is the movie. It’s – a combination of whodunit (although we ... Read More »

AH ROMA!

REEL REVIEWS  By Monte Lazarus  Bengoshi@comcast.net   Woody Allen’s latest, “To Rome With Love”, is feel good fun. The movie is a pastiche of unrelated plots, while paying tribute to the Eternal City, with spectacular photography of Rome’s treasures. The plot? There isn’t one. Rather, the film begins with one of Rome’s elegant traffic cops introducing some of the characters and each story takes off. Woody Allen returns to the screen (he also wrote and directed) as Jerry, a neurotic – as usual – retired opera director, flying to Rome with wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) a strong-willed psychiatrist, to meet ... Read More »

SAFE HOUSE IN SOUTH AFRICA

REEL REVIEWS By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net Denzel Washington is, well, Denzel Washington. He’s one of those rare actors who never seem to give a bad performance no matter the plot or script. In “Safe House” he’s Tobin Frost, a cool, cynical ex-CIA agent who is viewed by the Agency as having gone rogue. There’s no particular reason given for his apparent defection. Was it money? If not, what else? The film opens with magnificent views of Capetown, South Africa, but it doesn’t take too long for action to explode and continue through the film. Newly acclaimed Swedish director Daniel Espinosa ... Read More »

THE ARTIST

REEL REVIEWS By Monte Lazarus Bengoshi@comcast.net Run; don’t walk, to see this movie. It’s advertised as a “silent”, but it’s not quite. There are a few sounds, and a continuous musical background. Other than that there’s no real dialog. On its surface the film appears simply to be a tribute to the silent movie era. However, that’s only the façade. Few of us remember silent movies. They dominated the screen until the late twenties when “The Jazz Singer” opened the new dimension of sound, and revolutionized the business. Yes, the film tells a story of a matinee idol of the ... Read More »

TO PARIS WITH LOVE

By Monte Lazarus From the opening montage and Sidney Bechet’s accompanying soprano sax you know that you’re in for a paean to Paris. Woody Allen scripted and directed this sweet, sentimental mix of fun and fantasy in which even the unbelievable is completely charming. Young, laid-back screenwriter and aspiring novelist, Gil (Owen Wilson) joins his soon-to-be wife Inez (Rachel McAdams) to Paris on a junket.  They’ve been invited to join Inez’s parents who are on a business trip. The parents are insufferable. Gil has a bit too much to drink, becomes tipsy and decides to walk the streets of Paris. ... Read More »

ADJUSTING LIFE

By Monte Lazarus Despite some silly touches and gaps, “The Adjustment Bureau” is a very enjoyable film. That’s due in part to always-excellent Matt Damon as a young Kennedyesque politician and Emily Blunt as Elise the budding ballerina. The movie is based on a rather dark short story by Philip K. Dick in which the protagonist finds the adjuster turning elements of the world to dust. The film shifts focus (no pun intended) to the interplay of free will, determinism, life, death, God, love in competition with “career” and human determination to overcome. David Norris (Matt Damon) is in the ... Read More »

BARNEY’S VERSION

By Monte Lazarus Every once in a while a film seizes you and won’t let go. Sometimes the film is not well publicized or well known. So it is with “Barney’s Version” centered on a dumpy producer of an awful soap opera. “Barney’s Version” is a forty year story of Barney’s chain of poor choices, his descent into utter boorishness, his apparent redemption, and even a murder according to a bigoted, vindictive Montreal detective (Mark Andy). Barney Panofsky is a pudgy, profane, cigar puffing, scotch swilling, hockey loving, balding son of a Jewish cop in Montreal. As Barney, Paul Giamatti ... Read More »

UNKNOWN

By Monte Lazarus Suspend your disbelief; sit back; relax and enjoy a pretty good thriller. There’s some resemblance to “The Bourne Identity” and even a sprinkling of the much older “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, but there are enough twists and turns to hold your attention. Liam Neeson succeeded in the well-received “Taken”, and once again plays an apparent victim of circumstances. He is Doctor Martin Harris, a botanist who arrives in Berlin for a conference, accompanied by his somewhat vacuous young blonde wife (January Jones). As they arrive at the famous Adlon hotel he realizes that he left ... Read More »

HOW AMERICA WENT TO WAR

It’s awfully easy to characterize “Fair Game” only as a story of conflict in marriage and the tension between duty/integrity and the need to preserve that marriage. In this case, it is the relationship of Valerie Plame Wilson (Naomi Watts) a covert CIA operative and retired Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). By now the story has been oft told: Plame, the agent dealt with nuclear proliferation; Wilson was beginning a new consulting career while tending to twins. They were comfortable living in Washington power circles and enjoying the comforts of life. They also had to transcend the burdens of Plame’s ... Read More »

FORGETTABLE, BUT UNSTOPPABLE

By Monte Lazarus It’s difficult to find a really bad movie if Denzel Washington is its star.  Throw in Director Tony Scott, for their fifth pairing, and there’s a high probability that the movie is pretty good, and that there’s a fair amount of action.  That’s all fairly descriptive of Unstoppable.  It’s a bit like the legendary average Chinese meal – good while it lasts, but soon forgettable.  Theater people like to talk about being “in the moment.”  Unstoppable is completely in the moment, and it fades away very quickly. The story centers about a 2001 incident in Ohio where ... Read More »