War – A New Ken Burns Masterpiece

The War – A Ken Burns Film
Release Date: October 2, 2007

Ken Burns is famous for his hard-hitting documentaries, but never before has he put together such a remarkable piece of film making as his new picture The War.  This seven-part PBS series takes a never-before-seen look at the Second World War and the effect it had on American lives.  This six disc set contains all fifteen hours of unbelievably impressive footage, much of which has been newly discovered.  With narration by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the intellectual community and music by famed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, this film will go down as the crowning achievement of Burns, as well as the defining archive of information about the war.  As an added note, Burns will be speaking at the Lutcher theater in Orange on October 17, 2007 at 6:30 PM. 

Blades of Glory – Gold Medal Comedy

Balls of Fury – Short on Both

Dexter – Bloody Brilliant

The Ultimate Gift – Sweet and Sappy

Resurrecting the Champ – Jackson Wins Big With Terrific Performance

Resurrecting the Champ   B+

Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett
Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief language
Directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender)
Appropriate for ages 13+

The Summary: A struggling journalist (Hartnett) discovers a former boxing champ (Jackson) living on the streets of Denver.  In his journey to discover the truth about the boxer, he is better able to reflect upon his own life. 

The Good: Let’s face it, Jackson is an amazing actor, and this movie really showcases his talents.  His turn as the champ is his best performance in years and although Hartnett does a fine job, Jackson steals every scene he is in.  I was also impressed with the fine script filled many sincere and self-reflective moments. 

The Bad: While this is a solid piece of entertainment, it’s not too terribly flashy and many will find it a little too slow for their tastes.  Also, I don’t think that the movie packs the emotional punch (bad pun – ouch!) that it intends.  I found myself touched, but not at all teary-eyed. 

This could have been a great little family film, were it not for an F bomb and other assorted bad language.  I think that the film could have been more successful without the language, but the filmmakers probably spiced it up in order to achieve PG-13 status. 

The Summary: Jackson gives a knockout performance in this low-budget crowd pleaser.

The Lives of Others – The Government is Listening…

The Lives of Others

Rated R for some sexuality/nudity
German with English subtitles
Release Date: August 21, 2007

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s Oscar ceremonies occurred when a little German film titled The Lives of Others beat out the Spanish hit Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Language Film.  After all, hardly anyone had even heard of the movie, and it hadn’t opened in even the larger markets yet (other than New York and L.A.).  I have to admit that I was a little upset – until I saw this breathtaking film.  Set in East Germany a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an ambitious Stasi policemen (the late Ulrich Muhe) is ordered to bug the home of a writer (Sebastian Koch) that might be involved in illegal activity.  Billed as a thriller, the pic evolves into a beautiful drama with an absolutely perfect ending.  The DVD contains deleted scenes, featurettes, and an interesting commentary by the director spoken in English without the slightest hint a German accent.