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Sunday, January 15, 2012

THE LADY

By D.E.Levine

This is a beautifully shot film directed by Luc Besson, chronicling the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize winning Burmese activist who for years has challenged the military regime that holds Burma in a dictatorship.

Having been to Burma, now known as Myramar, and found that people would not openly discuss Suu Kyi, I found the film fascinating in describing her childhood, family heritage of public and military service, and the many hardships and sacrifices she and her family made in publicly standing against the military dictatorship that now rules the country.

As interesting as it is, at 2 1/2 hours the film is too long. The prologue is interesting, explaining how Suu Kyi's father, General Aung San was instrumental in liberating Burma from British rule and became a hero to the Burmese people.

When he was assassinated in 1947, along with the rest of the government, the country was taken over by a military junta.

The film leaps to 1968 where Suu Kyi is living in the United Kingdom with her husband Michael Aris (David Thewles) and their two sons Kim (Jonathan Raggett) and Alex (Jonathan Woodhouse).

Called home to care for her mother who becomes ill, Suu Kyi is shocked at the violence and civil unrest she finds in Rangoon.

When asked to remain in Burma and head the National League for Democracy, because her friends and associates realize what a powerful presence the daughter of General Suu Kyi will make, she decides to remain.

However, to keep her from assuming her role the military government places Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years, with no access to newspapers, telephones, television and very infrequent approved visits from family members.

Unfortunately, as fascinating as the film is the characters are never fully developed and the intensity of the political upheaval never comes across.

Yeoh looks beautiful, but her role is placid and full of platitudes. Thewlis, Raggett and Woodhouse shine in their roles but because Suu Kyi and her family were basically separated for 10 years, their roles are small, although the loss, in real life, is great.

Filmed primarily in Thailand, the scenery is beautiful but most scenes center either around the supposed Aung San estate in Burma or the Aris residence in Oxford, England.

The reality is that although long, the film barely skims the surface of the ordeal, suffering and sacrifices that Aung San and her family made and are still making.

DRIVE

By D.E.Levine

Be prepared for plenty of violence in this beautifully directed film by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Ryan Gosling stars as a movie stunt driver by day and a getaway driver for criminals at night. Throughout the film he remains unnamed, known only as The Driver.

The Driver becomes close to his apartment house neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). When her husband Standard (Oscar Issac) is released from prison he becomes enough of a friend to agree to help him satisfy a debt to gangsters.

Things go wrong and we see a different side of the calm, mild-mannered Driver. As the violence grows the audience sees surprising and previously unrevealed relationships.

Brooks, long known for both his stand-up comedy and comedic acting roles, steps out of character to become a commanding presence as money-lender Bernie. Bryan Cranston is good and unrecognizable as mechanic Shannon.

The film is intriguing with low lighting, a 1980s sound track, exciting car chases and lots of gore.

I didn't think I'd enjoy this film but I really did, and audience reaction proved I wasn't alone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BEGINNERS

By D.E.Levine

The cast of this small movie shines and the movie grows bigger because of their acting.

Writer/director Mike Mills based this story about different types of love and the people seeking and finding it on his own life experience as a straight son watching the dying process of a beloved gay father.

At the start of the film we meet Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who is mourning the passing of his adored father Hal (Christopher Plummer).

Hal, though departed, is very much alive in his son's thoughts, often pushing his thoughts aside as Oliver remembers his father.

Although set mainly in 2003, in a voiceover Oliver speaks about the 1955 marriage of his parents and the decades that they were together, remembered as a series of kisses and a marriage without depth.

Six months after his mother Georgia (Mary Kay Page) dies, the 75-year-old Hal announces he's gay, amasses a new group of friends and takes a much younger lover (Goran Visnjic).

All of this is witnessed by Oliver, adoring but somewhat confused at his father's new lifestyle.

A second love story has Oliver in the lead when, at a costume party, he meets French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent). Anna has problems and issues of her own. She is a wounded individual.

But, as their relationship progresses through handholding, roller skating, walking Cosmo (Hal's dog) kisses, tears and all that love entails, Mills skillfully intertwines the Oliver's memories of Hal's cancer and last days with the new love relationship beginning.

The stories lag in places and are sometimes less believable than Mills aimed for, but the cast gives stellar performances making the characters charming, if not totally believable.

At 83, Plummer still has phenomenal screen presence and gives an outstanding performance that makes up for any existing weaknesses in the script of other performances.