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Posts Tagged ‘Very Highly Recommended Movie’

Today’s review(s) are for the extended / sub-titled version of “The Millenium Series“. “Millenium” is a six-part television series made in Sweden based on the novels written by Stieg Larsson.  The six parts were combined into three “movies”, each movie consisting of two parts from the series with each part running about 90 minutes for a total of about nine(9) hours.  The English version was released under the name: “Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition”.  I watched the sub-titled version, not the one with the dubbed English.
The three “movies” have the corresponding names to the first three novels in the book series.  I understand the book series was originally intended to run to ten books, but the author (Larsson) died unexpectedly.  The “movie” titles are: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“; “The Girl Who Played with Fire“; and, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest“.
The two main characters in all three of the movies are Lisbeth Salander – played by Noomi Rapace, and Mikael Blomkvist – played by Michael Nyqvist. Salander is a twenty-something Goth hacker who works as a “researcher” for a Swedish security firm.  Basically, she’s a private-eye with computer skills.  Blomkvist is “famous” journalist and part owner of a do-gooder “investigative” magazine called “Millennium”.
The first movie (“Dragon Tatto“) has Blomkvist setup to take the fall for a false libel charge.  In between his conviction and his lockup he is hired by a wealthy Swedish capitalist who wants Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his niece several decades ago.  He is getting old and just wants to know what happened to her before he dies.
Anyway, Blomkvist enlists Salander’s help and they solve the mystery and Salander saves Blomkvist’s life in the process.  Closing the quality circle, they also prove the libel charge was a setup and the rich guy commits suicide to avoid going to prison himself.
The second movie (“Played with Fire“), has Millennium investigating sex trade in Sweden for the publication of an expose implicating some government (and police) officials.  The reporter and his girl friend are murdered, as is Lisbeth’s “guardian” and Lisbeth is implicated in the deaths of all three.
This time, Blomkvist comes to Lisbeth’s rescue gathering evidence she is innocent.  Basically, some of the men involved in the sex trade are also involved with (and being protected by) the government officials.  The main “bad-guy” turns out to be a Russian spy who flipped to get Swedish government protection.  In turn, the government looked-the-other-way for over three decades of criminal behavior (drugs, sex trafficking, and gun running).  The bad-guy also turns out to be Lisbeth’s father.  In the end, both Lisbeth and her dad are captured by the police.
The third movie (“Hornets’ Nest“), has Lisbeth on trial for the attempted murder of her father and the possible murder of the other three (the journalist, girl friend, and guardian) from the second movie.  The “government” agents seek to kill Lisbeth and her father to silence them both.  They succeed in killing the dad, but not Lisbeth.
Ultimately, Blomkvist convinces some of the police and another secret group in the Swedish “Constitutional Protection Division” of Lisbeth’s innocence and together they gather the evidence to arrest all the baddies.  There is also another issue which gets wrapped up at the end of the movie.
Final recommendation: High to Very highly recommended with the qualification that all three are rated “R” and there are extremely violent and sexual (nudity) scenes in the first and second movie.  This is not a movie series for prudes or for anyone squeamish about nudity, rape, abuse of authority or violence (depicted) against women.  The “redeeming” factor, if you need that kind of thing, is that all of the bad guys get theirs in the end.  Although some are only shown arrested and disgraced, most have “untimely” deaths.
One cultural note: this is my first exposure to a Swedish production (TV or movie) and, other than the fact that I do not care for sub-titles, I found it a very entertaining production which reminded me of the first Jason Bourne movie in how the movie “looked” – not quite TV, not quite movie; just a funky realism look.  The “only” other “Swedish” thing I remember seeing has been the “Wallander” police series.  That series was shot in Sweden, but was actually a BBC production and started Kenneth Branagh in the title role – so I don’t think that counts as “Swedish”.
I have had this version for several weeks and just never got around to watching it.  I then got an offer from Vudu to buy the “English Dubbed” version for $10.  I didn’t even know the version I had wasn’t already dubbed.  I watched the first movie (parts 1 and 2 of the 6-part series) and decided to pick up the dubbed version as well.  I don’t speak Swedish, but I noticed what appeared to be discrepancies between what the actors were saying and what I was reading – at least some of the words sounded a LOT like other English words to me.  Since I’ve invested the extra money, I’ll watch the dubbed versions, but I’ve no idea when (or if) I’ll get around to reviewing them.
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On This Day In:
2018 Four Loves
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2017 Faith In Science
2016 What The World Calls
2015 Say What?
2014 Start Today
2013 Fly!!
2012 Greater Love
2011 Before

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1939)  —  movie review
Haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
  —  Virgil
From the “Aeneid
(Translated:  “Someday, perhaps, it will be delightful to remember even this.”)
Today’s review is for the black and white classic from 1939: “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” starring Robert Donat in his Best Actor Oscar winning performance as Mr. Arthur Chipping a classics (“Latin and Greek”) subject master (instructor) at a British boarding school.  The movie was up for six other Oscars but was mightily steamrolled by “Gone With The Wind” (GWTW).  Greer Garson plays his wife Katherine Chipping and Garson was nominated for best Actress.  (She lost to Vivien Leigh in GWTW, steamroll remember.)
Anyway, at the start of the film, an elderly Chipping falls asleep in front of a fireplace and dreams of his life (68 years teaching at an all-boys “public” school).  The memories trace his rough start at the school; his early years of struggle in the profession; his falling in love and brief marriage which results in his personal and professional blossoming; and, then the long years where he becomes a virtual institution at the school.  His longevity provides him the opportunity to teach multiple generations of young boys / men from the same families.  From our perspective, we see him age (and grow) as a teacher and as a man.
Although this movie only garnered one Oscar, it is a “CLASSIC” in every sense of the word.  It addresses friendship, loyalty, romance, shyness, love, loss, education standards, and last, but not least, the inherent value of morals, of commitment and of perseverance.
Final recommendation: very highest!  This is a movie everybody should see (and almost all will enjoy).  It is definitely among the top ten of my all-time favorite movies.
The quote from Virgil (above) is from the movie.  It is the line Chips relates in his retirement ceremony before the assembled school.
As a side note: This story (along with “Pride & Prejudice“) is one of my favorites in all of cinema.  There are several other versions / adaptations of the original book (1934 — reviewed here), which include a musical version (1969 — reviewed here) starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark, a BBC version (2002) starring Martin Clunes as Chips, and an earlier BBC version (1984) starring Roy Marsden as Chips.  The book review, linked above, is the same link for the BBC versions.  All four (book and three adaptations) were reviewed in posts by me back in February, earlier this year.
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On This Day In:
2018 Still Blogging
2017 Reliable Vision
2016 Still Walking
2015 Steps
2014 To Be Greatly Good
2013 Limited Capacity
2012 Two Ear Ticklers
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2011 To Avail The Nation

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1969)  —  movie review
This movie is a musical adaptation of the novel about the life of a schoolteacher, Mr. Chipping, written by the James Hilton.  The book was first adapted into movie form back in 1939 (also a great movie).  This version is a modification of both the novel and the original version.  It’s placed later in history – around World War II instead of WWI; Chipping is married longer; meets his wife differently; and, it’s a musical (instead of a “normal” drama / romance movie).  I have not read the novel, but I have seen the 1939 version several times before.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find it somewhere and watch it again so I can do a review from a fresh viewing.  This was my first viewing of this movie!
Mr. Chipping is a staid and stern housemaster at an English public school.  (That’s a “private” school to those of us in the U.S.)  The boarding school is where the upper crust of society send their boys to learn to be proper British gentlemen.  Chipping teaches Latin and Greek.  He gets talked into going to a play to see the future bride of a friend.  The lady doesn’t realize this is the “arrangement”.  Chipping unknowingly embarrasses himself and his friend.   Chipping goes on his holiday (vacation) to Pompeii, where he coincidentally meets the lady again.  As he is an expert on Greece, she asks him to be her tour guide for the day – which he does.  They hit it off and she falls in love with him (and he her).  Blah, blah, blah.   Mild comedy and laughter ensues.  They marry and she returns to school with him.  They become popular at the school.  She dies during the war.  He spends the remaining years of his life at the school.
The movie stars Peter O’Toole as Arthur Chipping (“Mr. Chips”), Petula Clark as Katherine Bridges / Chipping, Michael Redgrave as The Headmaster, George Baker as Lord Sutterwick (the wealthy donor who is at odds with Chipping due to his own previously sordid background), Siân Phillips as Ursula Mossbank (a famous actress who has a “background” with Lord Sutterwick), and Michael Bryant as Max Staefel (a German teacher who “must” return to Germany).  Phillips is “simply marvelous” in her take on being a famous actress.  Bryant is also impressive in his subtle expressions.  In fact, I repeated several scenes just to re-watch his facial reactions.
So, is this movie any good?  Does it work as a musical?  And, did I enjoy a rom-com musical?  Yes.  Mostly yes.  Emphatically yes!  I know I’ve seen Peter O’Toole in other roles (obviously “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Becket“), but I really think this is my new favorite role for him.  He was nominated for the Oscar and a Golden Glove for Best Actor for this role.  One of his eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor.  (He holds the lifetime record for nominations without a win.)  Interestingly, his wife (Siân Phillips) at the time was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role (Mossbank).  He won the Golden Glove.  She did not.
As a musical, the movie is not “great” – in my opinion.  With the exception of “Fill the World With Love” (see videos below) only a couple of the other songs were entertaining, let alone memorable.  This is partly why the movie was panned by the critics on its release.  In fact, I understand several of the songs were removed from the theatrical release because initial audience reviews were so poor.  The songs have been re-added for the “TCM” version which I watched.  The result is the movie is a “classic” movie with an introduction, intermission and exit production which add almost 15 minutes to the viewing time.  The total run time I watched was over the 2hrs 35min of the “official” run time.  But, it is worth it!!
Final recommendation:  VERY highly recommended.  While at one level, this is the story of one man’s struggle with the apparent mediocrity of his life, at a more profound level it is a love story – personal (husband and wife) and general (Chippings love for knowledge, teaching, manners and character).  I am sure some will find this a bit of a “chic flick” and a tear-jerker.  I did not find it the former.  I did find it the latter.  But then, I often find movies about character and integrity (and love stories) to be tear-jerkers.  So, get the Kleenex ready.
As a “bonus” for this review I am including two videos.  The first two verses of this song are performed by: Petula Clark (from the 1969 musical: “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”).  The last verse is performed by Peter O’Toole and is slightly different from the “actual” lyrics as he is singing to his deceased wife at the end of the film.  (Listen for the “Shhsh” and watch for Bryant / Staefel’s expression during Clark’s singing.  Priceless!!)
I sang this song many times back in my senior year of high school.  It was the first year of our high school choir – and they were taking anyone who was willing to volunteer to sing in public.  LOL.  I did not know the song was only a few years old.  Nor did I know it came from a movie / musical.  But then, I had not seen either version of this movie – 1939 or 1969.  I think I’m better for now having seen both.  If you can find them, I highly recommend them!
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On This Day In:
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2012 Build New Worlds
2011 I Grok Elegance
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East Side Sushi  (2015)  —  movie review
Every now and then you find (or someone recommends) a small independent movie that really entertains and moves you.  This is one of those movies.
East Side Sushi” was recommended to me by the younger brother of my best friend from childhood.  He currently lives in Hawaii and we communicate mostly by email.  He provides me with insight to things happening on the island and in Asia.  He is the one who clued me in to the Korean pop music videos I posted about a couple of years ago.  Anyway, he said he saw this great movie, filmed in Oakland, CA and it reminded him so much of the Bay Area he could almost taste the food being prepared in the movie.  I told him I’d keep my eyes out for the film.  I guess it was released on HBO and I didn’t subscribe at the time, so I didn’t have access to it.  To make a long story a little shorter, the film is available on my library streaming service, so I finally got a chance to view it.
The basic story line is old news: someone at the bottom wants to improve their place in society and then works to achieve it.  The twist in this movie: the lead is Mexican / American and female and she wants to become something (a sushi chef) which is “traditionally” both Asian (mainly Japanese) and male.  Apparently, female hands are too warm to prepare fish and they wear too much perfume, which changes the flavor of the fish.   Blah, blah, blah…  Racism and sexism neatly bundled into one plot.  Oh, yeah.  She’s a struggling single mother who also looks after her widowed father.  Strangely though, it works and it works well.
Diana Elizabeth Torres plays Juana (the Mexican lady who wants to become a sushi chef), Yutaka Takeuchi plays Aki (the senior Japanese sushi chef who mentors Juana), Rodrigo Duarte Clark plays Apa (Juana’s father), Kaya Jade Aguirre plays Lydia (Juana’s daughter), Roji Oyama plays Mr. Yoshida (the sushi restaurant owner – and also a sushi chef), and Miyoko Sakatani plays Mrs. Yoshida (the co-owner and maître d’ who originally hires Juana).
Now before we get too into the movie, let me make clear: while I have sampled sushi, I am nowhere near competent to evaluate the food preparation or display demonstrated in the film.  But, and this is a BIG but, I think I’d like to go to a restaurant and try some different types of sushi.  Just to see what all the fuss is about.  (LOL)
I found the movie well acted.  The Mexican family was very much the way I would imagine it: from the father not wanting to eat raw fish, to his complaining about why can’t Juana get a job cooking in a cantina.  I also found the white customer objecting to the restaurant owner about having a Mexican preparing the sushi a fascinating little scene.  It “justified” to the Japanese owner the position that ONLY males and ONLY Asians could prepare “true” sushi.  It reaffirmed the owner’s prejudice without him realizing / acknowledging the customer was as prejudiced against him as he was against Juana.  There is also an amusing staff lunch scene where Juana misunderstands the Japanese accent of English words and the other staff (various Asian and Hispanic) laugh at her error.  If you’ve ever been at a mixed culture meal / event, you’ve probably seen this happen in real life.
Final recommendation:  very highly recommended!  This is a pleasant movie which doesn’t break new ground, but which does cover the same ground while pointing out different scenery which you might not otherwise notice.  It’s a genuine “feel good” movie which can be watched by the whole family.  I emailed my friend to thank him for the recommendation and ask him to pass along any more he might have.  “That’s what friends are for…”  Now, I’ve paid it forward.
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On This Day In:
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2017 It’s Even Dimmer When You Don’t Have It
2016 Inconvenienced By Degree
2015 Sincerity
2014 Prayers For Junior
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2013 Interesting Drink
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2012 Smile
2011 Come Forward

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The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) — movie review
Today’s review is for the John Ford directed movie: “The Grapes Of Wrath” starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and John Carradine as Jim Casy.  The movie is based on the novel written by John Steinbeck which was published the year before the movie (1939).  The subject of the movie is the move by the Joad family from Oklahoma to California – what causes the move and what happens during the move.  This is the first time I’ve seen this movie and I never had to read the book while in high school and haven’t read it since.  Yes, I know it’s a “classic”.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.
It seems I’ve been watching a number of Henry Fonda movies lately, so I thought I’d do this review next (after “Once Upon A Time In The West“).  In OUATITW, Fonda plays a cold blooded killer named (only) Frank.  I was surprised to find he is also a killer in this movie.  At the start of the movie, Tom is released from prison (convicted of murder which he claims was in self-defense) and he makes his way to his family’s farm in Oklahoma.  He finds the farm abandoned, but is able to meet up with them at his uncle’s farm nearby.  Unfortunately, his uncle’s farm has also been repossessed, and the family is being forced off of it.
Repossessed is probably not an accurate description, because they don’t actually own the farm.  They are sharecroppers.  As long as the land was productive, they could scrape by enough to feed themselves and pay their rent.  But, when the world was hit by the Great Depression and most of the mid-west was hit by the “dust bowl” of the mid-1930’s, the land was unable to support the families let alone pay for the rents.  Many families were forced to move or starve.
Like many families, the Joad’s decide to move to California on the “promise” of well paying jobs.  The majority of the rest of the movie is about the difficulties of the trip and the eventual realization that “the promise” was merely a means for the owners of the land in Oklahoma to get the sharecroppers to voluntarily move off the land without the owners having to use force.  And, during the course of the movie, Fonda’s character kills again.  This time Tom kills a “deputy” who has just killed Fonda’s friend (Carradine / Casy) for no reason except that he (the deputy) can get away with it.
This movie is a powerful indictment of capitalism, fascism and authoritarianism in the United States during the 1930’s.  It has strong political (anti-communist) undertones which touch on both the “red scare” and anti-unionism as the wealthy, in California, try to take advantage of their fellow Americans who have been driven into poverty and into migrant worker status by weather and economic forces beyond their control.  The movie also uses two specific scenes to demonstrate that average Americans have charity in their hearts – in sharp contrast with those with economic power / wealth.
The movie is generally considered to be one of the greatest American movies of all time – and I agree it one of the most powerfully disturbing movies I’ve ever viewed.  According to Wikipedia: “this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” “
The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards (1941) and won two: Darwell for Best Actress and Ford for Best Director.  Fonda was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win.  He lost to James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story“.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  Disturbing, yes!  Powerful, yes!  If there is ANY downside to the movie, I’d say the weak attempt at an optimistic ending detracted from the overall power of the movie.  Fonda’s “Joad as everyman” in the prior scene was barely believable.  Ma’s “we’re gonna get by cause that’s what we’ve always done” – far less so.  In any case, this is a great / classic movie and well worth viewing in our day due to its message about our own economic / political time.
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On This Day In:
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2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
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2013 Four Score
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2011 Forever
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