The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
In the spirit of giving that abounds at Christmastime, I offer my favorite movies reviewed this year in each category. Because I chose more than one movie per category, this list is divided over two weeks with excerpts from Sofa Cinema reviews. Last week I listed my favorite new releases, independents and documentaries.
Please share in my wish for a happy, prosperous new year for all and lots of good movies to share!
"Central Station" (subtitled)
It is impossible to imagine anyone but Fernanda Montenegro as Dora, the scribe in "Central Station." Sitting at a small table in a busy train terminal in Brazil, she writes letters for those who can't write. Once a teacher, now in her later years, Dora is less than thrilled with life. Sometimes she mails the letters but more often than not she saves on the postage by stuffing them in a drawer.
When theatrically released in 1998, the tagline for "Central Station" was "He was looking for the father he never knew. She was looking for a second chance." Traveling with Dora and Josué is an adventure not to be missed.
"South Pacific: In Concert from Carnegie Hall"
There is something magical about live performances, even those captured on tape. And this "South Pacific" is pure magic. By its very definition a "concert" version implies no costumes and no sets and the actors read from scripts while standing in front of a symphony orchestra.
How could this be better?
• It allows the theme of James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" (the book on which the musical is based) to shine through.
• Of the many shows Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaborated on, "South Pacific" still is relevant today and the messages are honestly and engagingly relayed in song.
• As Emile de Becque, Brian Stokes Mitchell proves once again he is one of the best voices to grace the Broadway theater scene in years.
And most of all, the concert version of "South Pacific" is wonderful because:
• Reba McEntire is Nellie Forbush! Known primarily as a headlining country singer, McEntire brings just the right amount of Southern charm to the role, as well as a voice that never hesitates, even with the pressure of a New York audience and a live recording.
"Dangerous Beauty" (Rated R)
Released in 1998, "Dangerous Beauty" is based on the writings of Veronica Franco, the most famous courtesan of the 16th century. Her fate was sealed at an early age. According to her mother (Jacqueline Bisset in one of her strongest roles), a young woman of no means had one of two choices - be a nun or a courtesan. Franco (Catherine McCormack) chose the latter. Interest in her stunning beauty by men from all walks of life was further enhanced by her quick wit and intellect, characteristics not often cultivated in women of that time.
A romance with Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell) interfered with her line of work and with his duty to wife and country. Jealousy rears its ugly head on all fronts, the wives, the church, the heretics, and yet Franco stands strong.
"Dangerous Beauty" is truly a "Hidden Gem." Don't miss it.
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
Harper Lee wrote one novel and as luck would have it "To Kill a Mockingbird" landed in the right hands to adapt it to the screen. So much of good filmmaking depends on the collaborative effort of those involved and Lee's characters and her story based in a small southern town were treated with respect and affection.
Produced by Alan J. Pakula (director of "All the President's Men"), adapted by Horton Foote ("Tender Mercies") and directed by Robert Mulligan ("Summer of '42), the events of one summer during the Depression era unfold. Gregory Peck as attorney Atticus Finch is widower with two small children, Jem and Scout. The story opens with the voice-over of an adult Scout (Kim Stanley) reflecting back on the day.
Mary Badham and Phillip Alford made their film debuts as the Finch children who enjoy the freedom of playing in the neighborhood yards with their friend, Dill, visiting over the summer. Fears, real or imagined, regarding the Radleys (particularly the elusive Boo - Robert Duvall's film debut) occupy the children's lazy summer days.
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"
John Singer is a deaf/mute who wants the goodness he feels to supersede predictable suppositions. "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" was, and is, everything a motion picture should be because of Alan Arkin. With a tilt of his head or a shrug of his shoulders, Arkin expresses more than a dozen lines of dialogue.
Singer's ultimate choice for his life is not predictable, but long after the end credits roll and you find you're still thinking about John Singer, his actions may become understandable.
It has been 40 years since "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" was released and this wonderful movie, adapted from Carson McCullers' novel, finally is available to rent on DVD.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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