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.

Reviews: Five Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Happy Endings (2005) – A comedy that weaves ten plot lines to create a unique look at family, love and the unpredictability of life. Lisa Kudrow heads the ensemble cast as a woman who gave up her child for adoption and is now being blackmailed by a filmmaker (Jesse Bradford) who claims to know her child’s identity. Maggie Gyllenhaal costars as a woman who is dating a father (Tom Arnold) and his (gay) son (Jason Ritter). An all-around enjoyable movie where all the characters want is a happy ending.

Mondovino (2005) – In this funny and intriguing documentary, Director Jonathan Nossiter opens up a whole can of worms as he explores the current globalization of the wine industry and what will be lost if the big bad American wine companies continue to put speed over maturation and remove the individuality from wine in favor of mass production. Chances are that you will walk away pissed at the Americans and feeling sorry for the local Italian winemakers.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004) – A visually stunning and hilarious movie. It’s the 1940’s and gangs rule Shanghai, China. What happens when wannabe gangster Sing tries to join the notorious “Axe Gang”? He creates complete mayhem for Pig Sty village where king Fu masters have been living in secret. Now the Axe Gang wants to destroy the slum and it all depends on Sing to join forces with the mob or to save the day. Nominated for the 2006 Golden Globe Awards, Best Foreign Feature.

Nobody Knows (2004) – When a childlike mother of four abandons her children, it is up to 12-year-old Akira (Yuya Yagira) to take care of his siblings as the money runs out and the utilities are shut off. He does everything in his power to protect his brother and sisters and keep them together, even going as far as to beg, lie, and steal. A touching yet heartbreaking film as you watch these children struggle for courage, independence, and happiness. Yagira won the Best Actor prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Spirited Away (2001) – From acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki, comes another gem. 10-year-old Chihiro is a spoiled and whiny brat who is absolutely opposed to her families move to the suburbs. On the way to their new home, Chihiro and her family discover a deserted theme park and they are immediately sucked into a world of magic. When the witch Yubaba turns her parents into pigs, it is up to Chihiro to save them and along the way she learns her true potential. An intoxicating and stunning masterpiece. Winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Updated October 20, 2010