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Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Going to the movies on 42nd Street (no hookers or drug dealers in sight)

Going to the movies on 42nd Street (no hookers, porn shops, or drug dealers in sight)  Paul Goldfinger photo. ©  What a relief that the sign doesn’t say “confessions.”

 

Re-post from 2013, but this movie deserves remembering on this New Year’s Day

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

This movie just opened, but it is clear that it will be a big hit.  We saw it on a big screen in mid-town New York in the afternoon. I love to see films in those New York theaters where the screens are huge and the sound systems spectacular, especially during the day. This multiplex has dedicated 3 screens to “42.”

Jackie Robinson steps onto the field in his new Brooklyn Dodger uniform. All photos by Paul Goldfinger. We'll use them as long as nobody yells at us.

Jackie Robinson steps onto the field in his new Brooklyn Dodger uniform. All photos off the screen by Paul Goldfinger. We’ll use them as long as nobody yells at us.

“42” is the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball.  He broke the “color barrier” in 1947 when Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, bravely ignored considerable opposition when he brought Robinson up to the big leagues.

The movie covers the years 1945-1947. It is beautifully filmed in a subdued color palette that is just perfect for the mood of a movie that depicts a very specific time in America. The costumes and settings are just perfect.  Racism was prevalent thoroughout the country, and particularly in baseball.   As you might expect, this movie is about a talented athlete with great personal qualities who manages to put up with all sorts of abuse while performing at a high level in helping his team get to the  World Series. He accomplished this feat even after he is forced to learn a new postion–first base–and even though he was only a rookie.

The themes about personal courage and bravery  in overcoming such a powerful social force  as racism are among the most important elements in this very significant movie.

The baseball scenes are mesmerizing:  in the locker room, riding the team bus, getting caught in a run down between 2nd and 3rd, rounding the bases after a home run, a collision at home plate, and a horrifying intentional  “beanball” incident;  and there are others just as good.

Jackie Robinson is played by a fine actor named Chadwick Boseman.  But his character is not very complicated. The film doesn’t really tell us much  about Robinson’s early influences, his personal opinions or how his values were shaped. So the role for this actor doesn’t have much depth, but it is powerful nevertheless.

Branch Rickey in his Dodger office. Played by Harrison Ford.

Branch Rickey in his Dodger office. Played by Harrison Ford.

The most interesting character in the film is that of Branch Rickey who is played by Harrison Ford in a huge leap from Han  Solo (“Star Wars,”)  Jack Ryan (“Clear and Present Danger”) or  “Indiana Jones.”   Rickey was a religious man who had been planning to integrate major league baseball, and the movie digs into how he accomplished that goal and how he decided to choose Robinson to be the first.  Ford did a great job in capturing Rickey’s passion, bravery, and fortitude.   Harrison Ford may get an Oscar for this role.

This is one of the most captivating moments in baseball history. With the crowds screaming racial slurs, Pew Wee Reese, the Dodger shortstop put his arm around JR and just stood there with him until the noise quieted.

This is one of the most captivating moments in baseball history. With the crowd screaming racial slurs, Pew Wee Reese, the Dodger shortstop, put his arm around Robinson and just stood there with him until the noise quieted.

Take your kids to see this film. You don’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy it.  The “N word” is used a lot, but it is necessary, and kids should hear it.

Fans shower Robinson with abuse.

Fans shower Robinson with abuse.

 

A SELECTION FROM THE  “42” SOUNDTRACK  by Mark Isham. The selection is called  “Pee Wee and Jackie.”

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By Paul and Eileen Goldfinger, editors @Blogfinger.

Italian Vacation is a hilarious and gorgeous  film with wall to wall laughs, delicious foods and beautiful scenics of Italy, along the Amalfi and Liguria coasts.  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two English comedians who embark on a high class Italian road trip, following in the footsteps of poet Lord Byron and his buddy Shelly who once took a grand tour of Italy in the early 19th century.  The two friends, Rob and Steve, get to stay at the best hotels and go to the finest restaurants, all paid for by the newspaper that sent them on a foodie travel  assignment.

We take the tour with Steve and Rob as they joke their way across Italy in a mini-Cooper.  The banter between these two comics, who improvised the entire film, left us in stitches as they did impressions of many famous and not-so famous stars such as Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Richard Burton, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman,  and so many others. They also took some shots at singers Michael Bublé and Alanis Morissette.

Even if you missed some of the lines, as we did, due to their British accents and comedic references that were unfamiliar to us, you will find this very original buddy movie to be hysterical. But you have to like wordplays, one-liners and movie references.  These two are so on the same wave length that they are capable of anticipating the next line in the conversation, so the dialogues tend to be rapid-fire.  Rotten Tomatoes referred to it as “crackling chemistry.”

I especially enjoyed the portrayal of how 21st century middle-aged men view the world and themselves.  There are serious moments as they discuss women, family and work. It is about male companionship which is always somewhat competitive. One complained ruefully that when he catches the eye of a beautiful young woman, she usually offers a smile “like you would give a benevolent uncle.” But despite that sort of remark, these two are good looking guys who enjoy the fine meals, the wines, the conversations, and, yes, the exchanges with women along the way.  They say that women like men who are funny, so I suspect that Steve and Rob will have no problems in that area, even as they get much older. Getting older is a theme for these guys who worry about their mortality.

The foods, mostly scrumptious looking seafood dishes with pasta, are photographed beautifully, but Eileen complained that they shortchanged the preparation of these spectacular dishes. I agree. We would have enjoyed some scenes in the kitchen as we saw in “The Hundred Foot Journey” which we recently reviewed.

The movie made us hungry for Italian food, so after the show, as we attended a late afternoon screening,  we went straight to our favorite Italian restaurant around here—Jimmy’s in Asbury Park on Asbury Avenue.  This restaurant is consistently good with authentic cuisine. They have been around for ages and they attract a knowing and appreciative crowd. It feels very old fashioned to us, reminiscent of places we visited in the past in Big Italy and Little Italy.

Bar at Jimmy's during the week. Tables for dining are to the right.  Two large dining rooms are in the back.

Bar at Jimmy’s during the week. Tables for dining are to the right. Two large dining rooms are in the back. That’s our waitress. (the one on the right)  Blogfinger photo ©

We chose a booth out by the bar—-it felt homey, warm and relaxed.  We’re not Italian, but Eileen cooks like one, and I play one on Blogfinger, so we fit right in at Jimmy’s.  We shared a “Jimmy’s salad” with the dressing on it—not on the side.  Then we split an order of lobster fra diavlo over linguine. The premium house wines were excellent—we had a Tuscan Antinori wine and a Ruffino Ducale chianti (by the glass).  An essential component of such a meal is the  Italian bread and olive oil  which I enjoyed before, during and after dinner, some pieces with butter, but Eileen amazingly avoided it totally.    By then we had to skip dessert because we were stuffed. The dinner was excellent and was the perfect finale to our Italian movie and dinner-date.

We saw this movie at the Bow Tie Middlebrook Cinema on Route 35 in Ocean. It is a sequel to Steve and Rob’s  first such film called  “The Trip” which began as a mini-series for the BBC and is now available on Netflix.   Adio!

ALANIS MORISSETE  Her album Jagged Little Pill  is featured in this movie.  But, this particular song by this Canadian singer is from the movie “De-Lovely” about Cole Porter.

 

 

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

I will see any movie that is about music provided that the music doesn’t get lost in a melodramatic story such as in the failed bios about Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and even the Jersey Boys.  Begin Again is a music movie which actually is about music.

It is a romantic comedy set one summer in New York City. Keira Knightley, the English actress,  plays Gretta, a singer-songwriter, who has just broken up with her newly-successful musician boyfriend played by real-life rocker Adam Levine.   If she looks familiar it’s because she’s been in 40 movies, and she is only 29.

Gretta is idealistic and she despairs that her unique compositions will never be heard. By chance, while she is performing one of her songs in an East Village joint, her music is heard by Dan, a down-on-his-luck record exec. played by Mark Ruffalo.

Her singing is subdued, and her song, though very nice, is stiff, and the audience is indifferent.    Yet Dan, despite his drunken depressed state,  hears something original in the music, and this scene, played over again a few times through the eyes of different characters, got my attention when Dan imagines that some instruments on stage—cello, violin, bass, piano, drums—- come to life and provide an orchestral background so that we can hear what he hears in his mind’s eye.

He tells Gretta that he wants to help her make an album and he proposes the novel idea that they record outdoors at different locations around town. They hire musicians, Dan produces the album, and the result is excellent, tempered by the ambient sounds of the city.

Begin Again  then becomes the story of the making  of a winning musical production done in a very unorthodox manner, and that is the part that is original and captivating.

There are some sub-plots regarding the characters and their personal lives, but mostly the film is about music.  Dan and Gretta get to begin again personally and musically, and we get to enjoy the results.

At the end of the film, as the credits roll, we learn how this unusual album gets marketed in a 21st century way. Unfortunately, that part wasn’t presented very clearly, and probably should have been eliminated.

I recommend this movie.  It is honest, enjoyable, and memorable—qualities not often seen these days at the movies.

We give it 3 1/2  Blogfingers.

ADAM LEVINE:  From the soundtrack of Begin Again:  “No One Else Like You.”

 

Begin Again is currently playing at the Bow Tie Cinema on White Street in Red Bank.  Here is a trailer:

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  On August 8, Woody Allen’s film  Magic in the Moonlight opens, and it  looks like a winner to me, despite some negative advance reviews,;  but I will see it and probably like it, because it contains all those wonderful Woody attributes:  Original story written and directed by  him, setting music, cinematography and humor. It also will be at the Bow Tie in Red Bank.

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Maryland. c. 1995. By Paul Goldfinger ©

A fork in the road.  Maryland. c. 1995. By Paul Goldfinger ©  Click left for full view.

The movie “The Sessions” stars Helen Hunt in a brilliant and courageous performance as a sex therapist/surrogate who treats poet-journalist Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) who is confined to an iron lung after childhood polio.  Mark’s character, based on a true person, is able to graduate college and lead a life that is remarkably fulfilling, but he has never experienced sex.

sessions poster

The story is rated R, but it is not lewd. It is funny and touching. The themes include questions about love, faith  and physical desire. Despite Mark’s infirmity, he is able to experience sex, and to be loved by three beautiful women.  William H. Macy plays Mark’s priest, confident and friend.

The movie won an audience award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Helen Hunt received an  Academy Award nomination for this movie. “The Sessions” is an inspiring film. It is rated R, because of nudity and frank discussions about sex, but don’t view it just to see Helen Hunt naked, although that does have a certain unavoidable allure.

The courage of this severely disabled man provides inspiration for anyone who sees it. His actions remind me of the Yogi Berra quote, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

—Paul Goldfinger, editor  @Blogfinger

“Casanova’s Kiss.”  From the original soundtrack recording of “The Sessions” by Marco Beltrami

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

There is a wonderful scene in the movie “Quartet” when a retired professional opera singer is speaking to a class of teenagers. He listens intently as a black student recites his heartfelt rap lyrics. They were sharing a moment of understanding through music. How beautiful is that?

This movie is soooo good because it has it all: a gorgeous setting, great acting, soul stirring music, an intelligent and funny script, a richness of emotional effect, and lush, splendid cinematography.

It takes place at a lovely estate in England where a group of aging professional classical musicians and opera singers live. These people form a community and embrace their lives there, despite their ages, and find joy in their music and in their relationships with each other.

The music is part of the story rather than an almost invisible mist that floats in the background, enveloping everything, like most movie soundtracks do. These musical moments enrich the movie  as they appear in delicate doses throughout the film . The finale is predictable, but the way it is done is just wonderful.

In another scene, a young female pianist, just a girl, is playing a recital before the artists who live there and who are enthralled with her performance. As she plays a fairly easy piece, an elderly clarinetist moves next to her and joins in. The two of them form a magical duo, and the audio-visual of them creating beautiful music  together—all of it regardless of age—was so touching I can’t even begin to explain the emotional impact.

The four stars of the show are preparing to perform the quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto at the annual gala. The actress Maggie Smith seems to be everywhere these days: from Downton Abbey, to the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to Quartet. Her acting, her wonderful humor, and her elegant beauty add a special excellence to an already fine cast.

There is a love story, hope for the future, and brilliant direction by an American –Dustan Hoffman—of all these English actors and their English sensibilities and, yes, it is a comedy.

Go see this film and prepare to cry a few times—not out of sadness, but out of the feeling that we human beings have so much goodness to celebrate in life, even when we become old.

SOUNDTRACK:

This is a fine cello solo from the film called “Le Cygne”  (The Swan) by Saint Saens:

http:/ https://blogfinger.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/07-le-cygne-le-cygne.mp3

And this is a vaudeville style performance by two old song and dance men:

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