Knight at HOME at the Movies
Eight hearty films for connoiseurs of every stripe - dramas, comedies, epics, love stories (gay and straight) - enjoy!
The Secret Life of Bees - From 20th Century Fox. Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Sophie
Okenado star in this southern fried film adaptation of the Sue Monk-Kidd bestseller that certainly was helped along by an
endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. As I mentioned in my review of the film, I am powerless to resist these sisterhood pictures and
this one is no exception. The disc includes several behind the scenes featurettes that simply reinforce the "special bond" this kind
of material engenders in audiences. You either love this warm, dappled stuff unabashedly or you don't. I'm of the latter mind.
Bottle Shock – From 20th Century Fox. I was also won over big time by this familiar but endearing, true story of the rise of Napa
Valley as a world class maker of wines in the mid 1970s. Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, especially, turn in wonderful performances
and the young supporting cast holds their own.
Cannery Row – From Warner Home Video. Nick Nolte and Debra Winger star in this oft-maligned 1982 film based on not one but
two John Steinbeck novels. The story focuses on Nick Nolte (still very much in his handsome hunk with depth phase) as a marine
biologist and the luminous Debra Winger as a drifter/prostitute falling in love in a factory town in California in the 30s has two
watchable performances from its two leads and I, once again against the wind, LIKE that the sets look fakey and movie-like. There's
something very winning (for me at least) in being reminded that I'm watching an artificial, over the top, movie driven romance
(people had the same problem with 1959's Porgy & Bess). The movie's flawed and a tad talky but there's enough eccentricity and
those two interesting performers to definitely recommend it.
Being There (Deluxe Edition) – From Warner Home Video. Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, and Melvyn Douglas
shine in this 1979 film from overlooked director Hal Ashby. It's a sort of Forest Gump but with a lot more bite and decidedly more
satire (and of course, in Sellers, it has one of films' most gifted comics). It's the simple story of an idiot gardener who through a
series of misadventures ends up as a confidente of the President enlivened by Ashby's always spot on use of pop culture on screen
and on the soundtrack (a long sequence cut to Deodato's "2001" theme is tremendous). This long overdue deluxe edition has
some nice featurette material but where oh where is MacLaine who turns in a restrained, moving and sexy performance. A definite
must have for the collection and worth upgrading if already there.
Risky Business - 25th Anniversary Edition - From Warner Home Video. This one fell through the cracks but there it was last
week, just waiting for me to take a gander at it. I fell in love all over again with Tom Cruise (I admit it) in the ONE movie that I
unabashedly adore him in. This 1983 bitter black teen comedy is sexy as hell (thanks to Cruise and his co-star, Rebecca De
Mornay) and launched Cruise into superstardom (in hindsight, maybe not such a good thing). Produced by gay icon David Geffen,
the picture, shot on the north shore of Chicago, is still a bitterly funny, whip smart comedy and also marks the soundtrack high point
for 80s synth composers Tangerine Dream (the sequence in which Cruise and De Mornay make love on the El train is a visual and
musical highlight). Several new featurettes have been added to this new edition of the film.
Brideshead Revisited – From Miramax. A solid, entrancing big screen adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh literature classic. I'm one
of the critics that thought this version improved upon the doughy television mini-series and Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, and
especially Emma Thompson and several sumptuous set pieces certainly helped. I suspect this will find a long shelf life on DVD. It's
Australia – From 20th Century Fox. Audiences didn't much like this Baz Luhrman valentine to his homeland but I was in the mood
for an old fashioned epic and though I had problems here and there, I luxuriated in the film's old school approach. Yes, Nicole
Kidman's weird, unlined faced bugged the hell out of me, yes, Hugh Jackman should have had MANY more shirtless scenes but
these are really just quibbles. This is great Sunday matinee fare. As expected, the DVD is loaded with extras.
Far From the Madding Crowd – From Warner Home Video. Another much maligned epic was this 1967 screen adaptation of the
Thomas Hardy novel by the late gay director John Schlesinger. But it's always been a family favorite (as is the music which has one
of the most gorgeous main titles ever composed for a movie by Richard Rodney Bennett). Julie Christie stars as the independently
minded beauty who inherits a farm and is courted by three potential suitors - the earnest sheepherder (Alan Bates), the wealthy but
socially inept farmer next door (Peter Finch) and the dashing ladies man and soldier (Terence Stamp). At nearly three hours, this
was sent into theatres as one of those "road show" pictures and this debut DVD includes the overture and other rarely seen material
(including three minutes added to the foreign release). A cinematic masterpiece (shot by Nicholas Roeg), the movie offers Christie a
wonderful part and she is matched by her co-stars. Another shout out for that fabulous score, hard to find on an out of print CD but
well worth it for soundtrack fans. I'm including this title as a precursor to my next Classics Roundup.