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Mini-reviews here of seven films I’ve seen over the last month or so (it’s great to be retired and also to belong to the DC Sunday morning Cinema Club).

And these don’t include Flight, Zero Dark Thirty, Jack Reacher, Les Miserables, and The Waiting Room (any other suggestions?), all of which I plan to see in the next ten days. Nor do they include recently reviewed movies on MillersTime: West of Memphis, Silver Linings Playsbook, A Late Quartet, Lincoln, and Argo.

Once I see the five listed above, I’ll have a post listing the movies this year that I’ve give ratings of four, four and a half, and five stars.

Quartet ****1/2

Quartet.MV5BMTc2MTI0MzI5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzkzNjQ4OA@@._V1._SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Not to be confused with A Late Quartet, which I also saw and enjoyed, tho nowhere near as much as Quartet, which, despite a slight rose-colored glasses aspect (i.e., not so realistic) to this comic, feel good film, I found enjoyable and meaningful.

This film is set in Britain in a home for retired musicians where the egos are immense and the issues of aging are equally large.  Briefly, a new arrival comes to Beecham House and quickly the ‘easy tenor’ of life is upset. This new female resident turns out to be the fourth member of the famous “Quartet” whose other three members are also residents at the home, one of whom is her former husband.

Reminiscent of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this story is involving and a bit sentimental, but it is the individual struggles of all the residents to come to terms with their retirement that was even more engaging for me. We see how they struggle with their losses (their musical abilities, their fame, etc.) and with their encroaching aging.

There are good performances by Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Bill Connolly and Pauline Collins, and also able directing by Dustin Hoffman, making his directing debut. Yes. That Dustin Hoffman.

Great film for anyone 56 or over and maybe even for some of you slightly younger folks too, especially if you are or will soon deal with aging parents.

(Quartet has not yet been released. We saw it in our Sunday morning Cinema Club, but keep your eyes for it. I don’t know if it will have wide distribution, tho I hope it does.)

Chasing Ice *****

Chasing ice.MV5BMTM1NDc0MzAxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjY1NzE3OA@@._V1._SY317_CR1,0,214,317_In this film, National Geographic photographer James Balog, uses time lapse photography to document the shrinking of our glaciers.

Once Balog was a skeptic about climate change, but no longer. His years of working in the Arctic convinced him of what can no longer be denied. He presents his findings in such a way that if one questioned or has been a denier of global warming, it will no longer be possible to hold to that position.

The Arctic scenery is wonderful.

But the destruction that is taking place is undeniable and heartbreaking.

What more warning do we need than seeing this terrible loss of a part of our world that took thousands of years to develop?

Burn ****1/2

Burn.MV5BMjExNTY2NDE2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTI3MjA1OA@@._V1._SY317_CR2,0,214,317_Another documentary about the ruin that is Detroit.

This one follows the lives of the members of Engine Co. #50 as they struggle to contain fires and their dwindling equipment as well as to understand what is happening to their city and to their own lives.

Along with the earlier reviewed documentaries Detropia and some of the scenes from Waiting for Sugarman, we see one of our major cities which looks and feels like it has been through a war. No, the war and the destruction seem to continue there.

There is nothing preachy about this documentary, just a sad, maddening view of the decline and destruction of what was once a major city of 1.8 million and is now reduced to 700,000.

The Life of Pi ****

Life of Pi.MV5BNTg2OTY2ODg5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM5MTYxOA@@._V1._SY317_I’m not sure how to review this film, but I must say I think I understood it more than I did the book, which was mystifying to me.

Good acting, by both the lead and the tiger and some good visuals, as well as some bad ones.

Worth seeing, but if you miss it, no need to stay away from high places and sharp objects, if you ask me.

Sky Fall***1/2

skyfall.MV5BMjM1MzMzOTA3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NzA1OA@@._V1._SY317_Pretty good escapist James Bond film that is not as good as many of the others.

Still, even a weak James Bond film is entertaining, unless you are purist.



A Royal Affair *****

royual affair.MV5BMTg3MDE4MTQ4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDgwNDYyOA@@._V1._SY317_Ellen reviewed this one in October, but I just saw it recently. Her review is right on, and I repeat it here:

“A stunning “period” piece that takes place mostly in the early 1800’s. It tells the true story of Denmark under the reign of the mad king Christian VII.  Guided by his personal physician and his Queen, both of whom are entranced by the new ideas of the Enlightenment, the story of political change in a backward country couldn’t be more stunningly told.  Overlay that with the intensity of a forbidden affair that ends in banishment and execution, and you have a real winner. Costumes, direction and production are all superb. Another must see.”

(Our Cinema Club gave A Royal Affair a 92.1% positive vote – Excellent or Good.)

The Central Park Five *****

central park five.MV5BMjMxMDMyNzI1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTIxMDQ2OA@@._V1._SY317_A true story quite similar to West of Memphis (reviewed on MillersTime earlier) wherein innocent young men are accused and found guilty of a crime they did not commit.

While both films are excellent, there are some differences to the general story of over zealous prosecutors, media band-wagon journalism, blood thirsty (career enhancing) public officials, and easily manipulated public opinion in general.

In The Central Park Five the victims (those who are jailed tho they are innocent) are black and Latino, ages 14-16. Race and class play a major role in this Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon directed film.

Both films are powerful and leave you with questions about our police and judicial system as well as how we all are influenced by the gang mentality of the press and public opinion.

Powerful movie, documentary.

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas


I missed this one in our Cinema Club a few weeks ago, but the audience gave it a positive rating (excellent/good) of 74.6%. That’s not as high as most of the other ones we’ve seen there this Fall/Winter, but not a bad rating by this tough group of ‘critics.’