Reviews: Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Gia (1998)

Starring Angelina Jolie (before she was the prettier half of Brangelina), Gia tells the story of Gia Marie Carangi, America’s first supermodel. Jolie is riveting as Carangi, the fashion it-girl of the 1970’s who would fall into a world of drugs, sex, depression, and eventually die of AIDs at the age of 26. With this role, Jolie proved she was an actress, receiving a Golden Glove and a SAG for her performance.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Set in Brooklyn during the 1980’s, writer/director Noah Baumbach touching story is of two brothers (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) dealing with their parents’ divorce. The somewhat childish (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney), blame eachother for the collapse of the marriage. The ultimate moral… divorce is tough. A poignant film that can make laugh just as easily as it will make you cry. Overlooked during the award show season and that’s a shame.

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Laura Henderson (Dame Judi Dench) already has a reputation as an eccentric member of London’s upper class when she decides to renovate an abandoned theater. Clueless, she enlists the help of Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to manage her productions. In desperate need of a hit, Mrs. Henderson comes up with a plan to place nude girls on the stage. What emerges is not only a controversy, but a delightful tale of the only London theater to remain open during the Blitz. It is a lovely picture and Dench gives a touching performance.

Ball of Fire (1941)

This hilarious picture written by Billy Wilder and directed by Howard Hawks is a unique take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Prof. Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) and his 7 colleagues are writing a slang dictionary. Katherine O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) is a night club singer engaged to a gangster. When she needs to hide from the police, she takes a place a the Professors’ home and tricks Potts into marrying her. Only trouble can result from this madcap adventure. Stanwyck receieved an Oscar nomination for her role in a perfect romantic-comedy.

Shopgirl (2005)

Based on Steve Martin’s best-selling novella. Claire Danes delivers with a highly underrated performance as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a lonely salesgirl, who embarks on a relationship with an older man (Steve Martin) that will change her life. He leads her into a world of wealth and lavish gifts, only to increase her vulnerability. Jason Schwartzman is also on board as the aimless young man vying for Mirabelle’s attention. Claire Danes is better than this so-so movie.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest feature is another masterpiece. Like any other Miyazaki film, Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of magic, wizards, and love. Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), an unconfident young woman is turned into an old woman by the spiteful Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall). To break the spell she must depend on Howl (Christian Bale), an talented but equally insecure wizard,and the characters who live in his giant wooden legged castle. A visual masterpiece and it is sure to be a classic.

While I Was Gone

I’ve returned from my week long vacation in the Catskills and I am sad to report that it was not a Dirty Dancing-esque summer. One day it will happen I swear. In other news, after being completely isolated from any celebrity news or movie watching for one week, I had a few shocks when I returned to NJ.

1. Brad and Jen are finalizing their divorce. I, like any other stalkerazzi in training (SIT?), wonder when Brangelina will come out as an item. I mean they were spotted in Canada at some dinosaur museum.

2. Chelsea is really Georgia. (That’s Days of Our Lives reference.)

3. Hillary Duff’s greatest hits album, “Most Wanted” is number one on the Billboard charts. I’m by far not the biggest music buff in the world but even I know that is wrong on so many levels

4. Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird and starred in other great movies such as Carmen and Porgy and Bess, passed away on August 23. He was also a huge part of the sci-fi genre, with roles in Star Trek and the voice of Darth Vader on NPR. Peters was an important actor who most people probably haven’t heard of or know of his work beyond TKAM. (It’s a shame how that happens). I think his death is far more important than the three items I listed before.