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.
"The Bank Job"
Combine the elements of a thriller, a mystery, government corruption, romance and the added plus that it is based on a true story, and you wind up with "The Bank Job."
In 1971, a motley crew of average blokes joined forces to rob a bank vault by tunneling under adjacent shops, breaking through the cement floor and making off with more than an estimated 4 million pounds of loot.
The aftermath of the robbery turns into a webbed intrigue. Why is there no newspaper coverage after the initial headlines? What was stolen that would cause the most secret of police to be involved? Where will the "meet" take place? When will the truth be revealed? Who are the bad guys? The robbers? Or are they the good guys?
Director Roger Donaldson weaves together a complicated tale and with the help of one crew member whose efforts are usually unsung, "The Bank Job" works. Lucinda Syson is the casting director and does a brilliant job making more than dozens of characters identifiable. (Eliminating those all-too-frequent moments when you press the pause button and say "Who is that again?")
Deserving of its "R" rating for violence and some language, "The Bank Job" is a good thriller, mystery, government corruption, romance, intriguing "based-on-true-events" movie.
Unrated - 1933
In 2004, a "dupe" negative* of "Baby Face" was found in the Library of Congress film vault. For the first time in 70 years, an uncut and uncensored version of this 1933 film was available for the general public to view in its original form.
Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lily, a girl born into hard times who wanted to get ahead in the world. She succeeds by using a variation of the, so-called, "oldest profession" to scale to the top of the business world.
The DVD of "Baby Face" offers two choices; the discovered "uncut" original and the theatrically released, censored version. Given the liberties taken by filmmakers today (and the audience expectations of these liberties), the cuts made by the studios to appease the film distributors long ago will seem tame by today's standards.
Stanwyck was only 26 when she starred in "Baby Face" and already had established her place as a silver screen femme fatale. She moved well, was photographed brilliantly and worked dialogue with a distinctive pace.
Even the uncut version of "Baby Face" forces a happy ending on this tragic character, but Stanwyck gets her point across nonetheless.
*A dupe negative was created from an original print struck from the original film negative. Multiple release prints would be made from a "dupe" without harming the final negative cut of the film and allowing copies for theaters to be made in large quantities.
"For All Mankind"
Tired of the all the bad news in the world? Hurricanes? Tsunamis? Invasions? War? Politics? You might not be able to escape "To infinity and beyond!" but you can go "... to the moon, Alice!"
"For All Mankind" is a beautifully assembled documentary that begins in Houston with preparations for the Apollo 8 mission, follows the astronauts on board, through take-off, blasting through the earth's orbit and eventually landing on the moon. It might not be "infinity," but it is definitely a trip of a lifetime.
Directed by Al Reinert and released in 1989, "For All Mankind" is narrated by astronauts from a number of Apollo missions. Reinert takes a few editing and dramatic liberties to add continuity to the trip and enhance the film but these are hardly egregious enough to fault the final product.
If all you can remember about the space missions is Neil Armstrong's words, "One small step for man - one giant leap for mankind," then you owe yourself the treat of watching "For All Mankind."
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 is the Arts & Entertainment critic for the international entertainment Web site NotesFromHollywood.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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