Rebecca Redshaw's "SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs Volume 1" will be published this fall. Read all her DVD reviews compiled in one book.
Some movies are worth a second look, and some reviews are worth a second read. Here are a few good ones worth repeating. The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
"Milk," rated R
Beginning with the first words of dialogue, you forget Sean Penn is in "Milk." He succeeds in transforming himself (with a little help of a new hairline and dental prosthetics) into Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected in the United States, in 1977.
Gus Van Sant wove the storyline of Milk's political career with threads of his personal life. The timeline is held together with Milk dictating his last will and testament into a tape recorder at his kitchen table.
It's always tricky to tell a story based on truth where the ending already is known so, rather than tiptoe around the facts, Van Sant opens with footage of then Councilwoman of San Francisco Diane Feinstein announcing the killing of Mayor George Moscone and Milk by Dan White.
Milk's approach to politics and life is through education and understanding so he tried to work with White.
White (Josh Brolin) is an integral part of the movie but not really the "bad guy."
The forces fighting against Milk and his cause are prejudice and hate, misunderstanding and ignorance - forces still present today. If movies have a higher purpose than entertainment, it is to reveal truths, to educate and enlighten.
Sean Penn and Gus Van Sant raised "Milk" to that higher level. Don't miss it.
"I've Loved You So Long," rated PG-13
Subtitled or dubbed in English
Sibling relationships can be tricky. Add a 10-year or more age discrepancy, a tragic set of circumstances and a 15-year separation to the mix, and the differences may be insurmountable. And yet, in "I've Loved You So Long," two sisters strive to overcome all obstacles.
Kristin Scott Thomas is Juliette, the silent, moody older sibling who comes to stay at the home of Léa (Elsa Zylberstein). Barely in contact for more than 15 years, younger sister Léa now has a family: a husband who is wary of their new house guest, his mute father and two adopted little girls from Vietnam.
Written and directed by Philippe Claudel, this French film dances around the mysteries surrounding Juliette while allowing relationships between her and the family and a few friends to develop. The curiosity of Lise Ségur as the precocious grade-school-aged niece P'tet Lis adds humor and relieves tension as the drama unfolds.
Scott Thomas has played beautiful women in the past, but this role demonstrates her depth and strength as an actor and, as her sister, Zylberstein (a new face to most Americans) equals her "sister's" powerful performance.
"I've Loved You So Long" deals with the gritty reality of being accepted by society in general and one's family specifically. Whether soaking in the swimming pool, driving in the car or talking at the kitchen table, Juliette and Léa demonstrate how special sisters can be to one another.
"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," rated PG
Finally, a sequel where it isn't necessary to have seen the original. The same cast of characters gathers in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa."
There's Ben Stiller and Chris Rock and David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith respectively camouflaged in cartoon alter egos as Alex, the lion cub, and Marty, the zebra, and Melman, the giraffe, and Gloria, the hippo.
If you get confused, just ask your kids; they already know this group of lovable misfits from "Madagascar."
Alec Baldwin lends his raspy voice to the adventure as Makunga, a lion clawing his way to be head of the pack, and there are numerous other recognizable voices that adults may scratch their heads over, but children won't care. They'll be having too much fun as this new adventure unfolds.
"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is funny for children and adults without resorting to hidden levels of meaning. The music is hip and the length of the film at 89 minutes is just right for youngsters of all ages.
Rebecca Redshaw can be reached
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