The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
"The Reader," rated R
The joy of a movie well-made (or a story well-told) is the sum of its parts. Kate Winslet has garnered much attention for her portrayal of Hanna Schmitz in "The Reader" and all well-deserved. But the success of the film is not only her extraordinary work but that of her very young co-star David Kross as
Michael Berg and Ralph Fiennes as Berg as an adult.
Director Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot" and "The Hours") has yet to shy away from difficult subject matter and the sub-ject matter of "The Reader" is no exception.
Hanna (Winslet) is a fare collector on a trolley in Germany in the 1950s. Coming home from work one day, she encounters Michael, an ailing teenager (Kross) whom she comforts. Once well, Michael returns with flowers in appreciation and their affair blossoms immediately. Before each sexual tryst, Michael reads to Hanna. The summer infatuation ends abruptly when Hanna disappears from his life.
The twist and turns of this complicated tale are compassionately revealed in Daldry's direction. "The Reader" is rated R for nudity and subject matter; however, the film is more sensual than sexual and ultimately more revealing about the depth of emotional relationships.
"Battle in Seattle," rated R
Before 1999 few knew what the letters "WTO" meant. After the demonstrations in Seattle during the World Trade Organization conference, anyone who watched the news was keenly aware that as Shakespeare wrote in "Hamlet," "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" or in this case "in Seattle."
"Battle in Seattle" works because it is a docudrama and not a documentary. Director and writer Stuart Townsend uses some actual footage of the demonstrations that turned into chaos on the streets of Seattle, which gives the film a startlingly realistic feel. However, he keeps the audience involved by pulling people from the crowd, the conference and government to tell not only the political story but how lives were affected and why things went awry.
Too often we're influenced by 30-second sound bites or, if the video footage involves blood or violence, a lengthy news feature of three minutes. These moments in media hardly capture reality on the streets.
There's always more to the story. "Battle in Seattle" features star power in Charlize Theron, Ray Liotta and Woody Harrelson, who are joined by equally strong actors. The ensemble engages the audience with their passion and frustration in trying to make the world a better place.
"Shadow of a Doubt," unrated
Mystery and intrigue are two words that often are associated with the name Alfred Hitchcock. Not so much with Thornton Wilder, the American playwright known for "The Skin of Our Teeth" and "Our Town." Yet these men teamed up for the 1943 classic black and white thriller "Shadow of a Doubt."
Charlie (Teresa Wright) is a young woman living in Santa Rosa, Calif., with her parents and two younger siblings. She's bored with the lack of excitement in her life when, unexpectedly, her favorite Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) comes for an extended visit.
Uncle Charlie is suave and sophisticated compared to his small town hosts but he's also secretive and in short order gives his niece cause for suspicion.
Familiar faces appear in smaller roles. Hume Cronyn makes his film debut as an inquisitive neighbor and MacDonald Carey is the persistent detective and erstwhile love interest for young Charlie.
This film is more than 60 years old and still plays well due to clever camera angles, inventive editing and a powerful musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin. In fact, the opening scene is scored with an intensity that is in sharp contrast to the bucolic, small-town tone of the rest of the film. "Shadow of a Doubt" foreshadows the genius of Alfred Hitchcock as a director.
Rebecca Redshaw can be reached at r2redshaw@
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