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MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Taxi

****2015, Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi keeps culture circulating in repressive Iran

Jafar Panahi has been making feature films in Iran since the 1990s. He got on the wrong side of Iranian censors after the contentious Iranian presidential election in 2009. He was convicted on political charges and sentenced to six years in jail, much of which was served under house arrest. He was also banned from making films for 20 years.

Hard Goodbyes: My Father

***2005, Penny Panayotopoulou

Not perfect, exciting, fresh, but well crafted, well acted, and very well directed

“International” cinema lately has been dominated by action-dramas from China, lush films from Mexico, and dry comedies from Scandinavia (as well as the usual French and English imports).

Happiness

***1998, Todd Solondz

Deep Blue Sea

***1999, Renny Harlin

Deep Blue Sea is a shark movie with teeth!”

Yes, I’m trying to be quoted in ad copy. It’s every unpaid critics’ dream.

In the Heart of the Sea

***1/22015, Ron Howard

A well-crafted yarn documenting the true-life disaster that inspired Moby Dick.

In the Heart of the Sea is a well-crafted yarn documenting the true-life disaster that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Funny Bones

***1/21995, Peter Chelsom

Not wacky or hilarious, but a great drama about comedy

Whatever you do, don’t believe the copy on the box for this movie. (“Wacky! Hilarious!”) Whoever wrote it obviously never saw the film. When they do see it they’re going to be very disappointed. In fact, a character neatly sums up one of the movie’s main themes when he says “I never saw anything funny that wasn’t terrible — that didn’t cause pain.” That’s not exactly what you’d call “Wacky!”

Funny Bones is a drama about comedians. Tommy Fawkes (Oliver Platt, in his best role to date) is a comic who bombs at his Las Vegas debut. His father (Jerry Lewis, playing a fictional copy of himself) knows that Tommy’s not funny, but he is nevertheless very supportive, smotheringly supportive.

Tommy’s self-doubt and a premonition of his own death drive him out of the country to seek refuge. He heads to Blackpool, England, in search of his roots, and in search of fresh new comedic material. He does find funny material for his show, it is no match for the leaden weight of his father’s past. He must first come to terms with who his father really was when they lived in England. Then he must find his own way to be funny, to step out from his father’s shadow, if his career is to survive.

The subject matter and its accompanying themes are food for thought. For example, the correlation between pain and comedy seems to have some substance to it. But the real reason this movie is outstanding is the performances. Platt and Lewis are great as father and son. Their family squabbles about comedy are unusual, but they feel honest and lifelike. The supporting cast is also very good, in particular, Lee Evans (recently in There’s Something About Mary, as the pizza deliverer). Evans is very funny when he wants to be, and he’s not half bad as an actor.

Batman Begins

****2005, Christopher Nolan

Batman Begins, now on DVD, stands cape and cowl above the previous Batflicks

Batman Begins is a batastrophic success.

When British director Christopher Nolan (Memento) set out to make a new Batman movie he faced countless choices and possibilities. Across the board, the man chose wisely.

Tolkien

***

Tolkien offers a satisfying, multi-course meal for the uninitiated.

This biographical account of J.R.R. Tolkien’s formative years requires a little bit of patience, but it offers some inspirational rewards in return.

Uncertain Terms

***2014, Nathan Silver

A young man separated from his wife and five young pregnant women — what could go wrong?

Indie filmmaker Nathan Silver cast his mother in an ensemble drama set at a rural home for girls. It must have been a healthy childhood because the result is a frank, occasionally painful, but always loving story.

Be Here to Love Me

**1/22004, Margaret Brown

Two songwriters, Van Zandt and Johnston, get their own documentaries

The music documentary is filling the void left by the death of the music video. (That’s not as catchy a sentence as “video killed the radio star,” but it will do for now.)

Project 798

***

Chinese Art hasn’t found its

It seems the Chinese are just like everyone else. They have artists out on the edge of society, they have run-down factory buildings, and just like in the West, when you mix the two you get a hip urban district and art incubator. You also get the certainty that the arty part of town will become gentrified by an influx of galleries, bistros and the idle rich.

The Flaw

***David Sington

A solid explanation of what happened in 2008 - but bring your interest and attention

The Flaw takes its title from a quote by Alan Greenspan, an understatement made after the financial crisis of 2008.

Enchanted

***1/22007, Kevin Lima

Its gimmick allows, in our post-ironic era, big musical production numbers in Central Park

Although I had heard good things about Enchanted, I didn’t have high expectations, since some of the good things I had heard came from 3- and 6-year-old girls.