Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Town: The Jury's In!

I had a fabulous weekend- went up north to central VT with my movie-going lady friends to visit our friend Karen who just bought a new home. It was a lovely weekend with the foliage peaking early in Vermont due to the dry summer and the colors are just beautiful. Some of the nicest I've seen in years. Karen's house is perfect for her, very comfortable and even her shy cat came out to say hello.

Since we're movie going people, of course we had movies on the mind. We promptly hied ourselves out to the Stowe Cinema to see The Town. (Did you know the theatre in Stowe serves alcoholic beverages?) But beware, it doesn't take credit cards. It's a nice theatre, the one we were in was small, but comfortable. No drink holders but there was a divider and we had a half wall in front of us which served a wonderful purpose- no one was in front of us to block our view and we could put our drinks on it. Of course, the movie wasn't crowded so we didn't have to worry about our view. Now, on to the movie, or at least background.

The Town is set in Boston and focuses on men who grew up and still live in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston. It is where the navy yard is (and the Constitution-the boat, not the document). Also the Bunker Hill Monument, even though the battle was fought on Breed's Hill. The buildings and architecture are quite lovely, the brownstone and brick townhouses and rowhouses are gorgeous. Upon restoration, quite desirable to those who want to live near Boston Proper.

A few other factoids:
  • Around the 1860's, an influx of Irish immigrants arrived in Charlestown.  The neighborhood remained an Irish stronghold in the cultural, economic, and Catholic tradition. 
  •  Throughout the 1960s until the middle 1990s, Charlestown was infamous for its Irish Mob Presence.  
  • Charlestown's McLaughlin Brothers were involved in a gang war with neighboring Somerville's Winter Hill Gang, during the Irish Mob Wars of the 1960s.  
  • On a summer night in 1992, George Sargent, 43, was shot to death outside a pizza parlor in Charlestown, Massachusetts. A few days earlier, he had provided information to police concerning criminal dealings in the neighborhood. As he lay dead on the sidewalk, no one called the police, and no one admitted to seeing the shooting. This response to the murder was typical in Charlestown. Members of the community were unwilling to share information that would facilitate homicide investigations because of their reliance on vigilante justice, fear of retaliation by criminals, and anti-police sentiment.  This is known as the code of silence.

  • This unspoken “code of silence” made homicide investigations extremely difficult. Between 1975 and 1992, Charlestown experienced 49 murders, 33 of which were not solved. The community was being overrun by the “Irish Mob,” a group of violent career criminals who ran a major PCP and cocaine distribution center. Because intimidated citizens upheld the code of silence, these drug traffickers were able to operate with virtual impunity.

Ben Affleck is the ringleader of a group of robbers who focus on armored trucks and occasionally a bank. Joining him is Jeremy Renner, recently released from a nine year stint in jail, a stalwart who truly enjoys his employment and eager to continue working. The other members of the group appear to be along for the ride, journeymen robbers, if you will.  The trouble begins when the gang robs a bank.  Jeremy Renner's character believes that the bank manager saw him.  Things go awry from there.  If I go on, I'll just spoil the plot for you and I don't want to do that.

I found there were several flaws with the movie.  Starting with the most obvious:
Ben Affleck still can't act.
Jon Hamm's talent is wasted as the FBI agent.   His part is poorly written and wooden.
The premise, or lack of one, that causes the FBI agent to focus on Ben Affleck's group.
The connection between Fergus the Florist (Pete Postlethwaite) and Ben Affleck's gang is unclear or indistinct.  This is due to either poor writing and directing or the very poor accents making the dialogue difficult to understand.  This was a problem throughout the film.
Poor direction:  Case in point.  During a scene between Affleck and Renner (who was the best thing in the film and brought it up a level in my opinion), they are having a very heated discussion.  Normally during this type of discussion, both parties talk over one another.  Here, they politely waited for each other to finish their sentences.  Very unnatural.

The best part of the film was trying to recognize all the places were the filming took place.  Especially fun was recognizing the florist, which is around the corner from my place of employment.  Many other sites were familiar as well.    Other than that, the movie was, as my late husband used to say, better than a nail in the foot.  I give it a B-.  Mostly because Jeremy Renner was so good. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

100 Voices: A Journey Home

This movie was shown nationwide tonight (September 21, 2010) at 7 p.m. my time. Not sure what time it was shown your time. Other than that, my understanding is that it will be on limited release in Los Angeles and New York City. Tough cookies for the rest of us. I found this a wonderful, remarkable film that should probably be required viewing in high school history classes. There is a lot of first person and second generation history going on in this film. Lots of oral history. Great stories. Moving family tragedy and rebuilding. All in the last 100 years. I have yet to tell you what this is about! I better get to it!

The Premise: Cantor Nathan Lam arranges an historic visit to Warsaw with 100 Cantors to sing at the Warsaw Opera House to bring back Jewish culture and, more importantly, Jewish music, to Warsaw and Poland. Warsaw was the "Center of the Universe" for Cantorial Music. This roughly translates to the "Vatican of Jewish Music". Joining the Cantors is Charles Fox, an American Jewish composer who wrote "Killing Me Softly" and "I Got a Name" among many others, and whose father was born in a small Polish town.

The Fun Part: Prior to the beginning of the movie, the audience was treated to a "mini-concert" featuring several Cantors singing compositions written by Jewish American composers. Such as: Orange Blossom Special (with fiddler), Maria (from West Side Story), Blessing from Fiddler on the Roof, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma! And OOOOHHHHH, did they sing it well!

Now the serious stuff. This is a very informative film. With lots of excellent music. Operatic, orchestral sounding music. And, from time to time, jazzy music. With personal stories, personal histories and very moving scenes. I especially loved the two ladies who survived Auschwitz and Birkenau, and were able to go back and "walk back in and walk back out". Nothing like a little chutzpah in life. I greatly admire these two ladies. And all the survivors who went on to make a life, a family, a community and continue to love after surviving such horror.

Most of all, the movie shed light on a tradition of which I was unaware, that became popular and, I found out, some Cantors had such popularity that they had groupies. Who knew?

If you find you have the opportunity at some time to see this film, I encourage you to do so. I found it informative, from a historical, musical and personal perspective. Maybe I've led a very sheltered life. I can tell you, my history and music classes never covered this.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Secretariat- Coming to a Theatre Near You on October 10th

I had the great good fortune, and a friend named Amy, to see the sneak preview of Secretariat last night. Amy was able to score free tickets for a group of us. She's connected. Want anything in town? Want to know what's happening? I ask Amy. She's my go-to person. Anyway, Secretariat will be released next month on October 10th, according to IMDB. I had never been to a sneak preview before. We were "wanded" and told to turn off our cell phones. No recording devices allowed. They weren't overly strict about anything as I sneaked in two water bottles and snacks. How closely did they check me? But on to the movie.

The movie, as you may have surmised, is about the horse named Secretariat. Some feel this is the greatest horse that ever lived, at least the movie states this point. The movie is "suggested" by the story of somebody. Not even "based on". This gave me a fit of giggles since Secretariat was a real horse, the events actually happened, the characters actually lived. So the statement that the movie was "suggested by" anything makes me wonder just how far off the facts it was going to be. Unfortunately, I was 15 when Secretariat was in his racing glory and had no interest in the Triple Crown.

The movie is produced by Walt Disney and rated PG. It's just two hours long. It runs a bit slow for the most part. Younger kids may lose interest, I felt myself wandering a bit from time to time. The excitement level increased during the scenes with the horse training and racing. The movie leads are Diane Lane and John Malkovich. Can I tell you how wonderful and funny Malkovich is? No, I don't think I can. He eventually tones it down but it makes the movie so much fun. Margo Martindale plays Miss Ham (you know you've seen her elsewhere and it bugged me but I've looked her up on IMDB so I'm happy now), Scott Glenn (Diane Lane's father) - he's familiar too. Fred Thompson also has a role. All in all, a nice movie to take the kids, especially the horse-obsessed girls to.

Will I see it again when it comes out in October? Sure- I plan on taking my nieces!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Expendables- Such Fun!

The Ladies and I, and a hubby, went to see The Expendables on Labor Day. If you've seen the previews, I'll bet you expect to see most of the familiar action-adventure, blood and gore, shoot 'em up, kick ass guys all in one movie go after somebody for some reason. If they have to have a reason. The reason is probably incidental to the action, it usually is. Well, you'd be right. But it's FUN! Explosive, bloody, gory, kickass, sometimes witty, never taking itself seriously fun.

OH- Spoiler Alert- If you haven't seen Diehard 4 or some other movies, I might spoil them for you. But you've seen previews, how much can I spoil?

Now, I'm a Diehard fan. I laughed through Diehard 4. I mean really..... who says "You just took out that helicopter with a car!".... "Well, I was out of ammunition." And then Bruce walks away, I mean he WALKS AWAY... from a battle with a fighter jet. Seriously, this is not real life. He shouldn't have lived through Diehard 1. But I love John McLane despite his nine lives. (Just don't bother watching Surrogates- the hair should tip you off). But I've digressed and my point here is this: The Expendables was much more gory. I think it was gorier than Braveheart. I spent a lot of time yesterday hiding my eyes sort of, you know, hands in front of face and peeking through fingers. It was very, very graphic and tended to linger just a moment longer than necessary on the consequences of an action. I guess that was Sly's call. After all, it was his film. Oh, yes, Sly co-wrote, directed and starred in Expendables. Guess he was running out of money.

But back to the movie. Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li (very funny and amusing, a nice surprise, his part was nicely written), Randy Couture and Terry Crews make up the team called the Expendables. When not dead set on mayhem, they hang out with a guy named Tool who is a tattoo artist: Mickey Rourke, looking like he hasn't recovered from his role in the Wrestler. Eric Roberts plays the nasty American, ex-CIA man who has taken over a tiny Island somewhere for his own gain. There are cameos by Bruce and Arnold. It's a wonderful scene actually, near the beginning of the movie: Bruce, Sly and Arnold. This scene alone is worth the price of the movie ticket. It's short but it's all I needed. Yeah, you'll come out of the theatre wanting more, but I'm easily pleased. I like puns, I like entendres.....
I like this film.