I'd be remiss if I began my weekly round-up of film reviews I've written without noting the passing of legendary film critic Roger Ebert. A lot of my history as a movie lover can be traced back to watching Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel talk about film on their weekly television show. I discovered them as a preteen, and always looked forward to hearing about films I would not otherwise even know existed. Much of what they championed never came to my town, but that didn't mean I wouldn't find those films years later. I know my introduction to David Mamet, David Lynch, Robert Altman, the Coen Bros., Steven Soderbergh, Louis Malle, the Up series, Hoop Dreams, and so many others came from watching these two gentlemen argue and enthuse about movies that touched them. I can't help but smile when I remember the infamous Benji the Hunted argument in 1987. That's how passionate they were. Even Benji was worth fighting over.
In recent years, Ebert faced his health issues with an unwavering dignity, becoming more prolific in his writing, tackling subjects beyond the moviehouse with the same incisive thinking that made his reviews so special. It's sad to see him go, since he clearly was not yet done with everything he wanted to do, but he leaves us with so much to remember, we should all be so lucky as to earn the equivalent of the tiniest fraction of his legacy by the time we go.
Thanks, sir. You will be missed, but you'll never be gone.
* The Place Beyond the Pines, an unwieldy family story from the director of Blue Valentine. Are literary pretensions and a strong cast enough to overcome a director's indulgences?
* And over at The Oregonian, two festivals come to town: the Polyester Pulp series of 1970s crime films and the disjointed Beer and Music Fest. Plus, Thale, a creepy Scandinavian folk tale turned into a creepy modern movie.
UPDATED TO CRITERION CONFESSIONS...
* The Game, David Fincher's mind-bender from the late 1990s.
THIS WEEK IN BD/DVD REVEWS...
* The Great Magician, a recent period piece set in 1930s China, with Tony Leung as an illusionist. The movie wants to be old-style entertainment, but it's not much fun.
* Hemingway & Gellhorn, literary legacies desecrated, good actors embarrassing themselves, and a myriad of other reasons why this is one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time.
* On Approval, a witty British comedy from 1944, directed by and starring Clive Brook.
* The Song of Bernadette, a dismal religious picture from the 1940s, starring Jennifer Jones as the girl who sees visions.
* The Sun Shines Bright, John Ford's friendly portrait of a Kentucky judge and his community ca. 1905. If you can look past some of the troublesome racial elements, the film actually has a surprising message of unity.
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All text (c) 2013 Jamie S. Rich