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Pic of the Week

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

Aladdin (2019)

***1/2Guy Ritchie

Narrative nudges include Jasmine’s leadership ambitions and a romantic entanglement for the genie.

This time, it’s not so much the music as the cast that’s pitch perfect.

When the Cat’s Away

***1997, Cédric Klapisch

Chloe goes through life in a state of vague dissatisfaction. Her social life is practically nonexistent. The only man she feels comfortable with is her gay roommate who is too wrapped up in his own life to meet her needs. Her one true friend is her cat Gris-Gris.

When Chloe takes a vacation (which lasts about five seconds screen time), she entrusts Gris-Gris to an animal lover named Madame Renee. She returns to find that, much to her distress, and Madame Renee’s, Gris-Gris is missing.

Much to Chloe’s surprise, Madame Renee is able to mobilize their Paris neighborhood in search of Gris-Gris. Chloe is aided by a network of old ladies, a simple-minded Arab named Djamel who likes her, and others, who try to spread the word.

The real star of this movie is Chloe’s neighborhood. It is ethnically diverse and inhabited by interesting characters, such as Madame Renee’s network of old ladies, many of whom were played by non-actors. Even though old buildings are being torn down and the old ladies are being evicted in the name of gentrification, the area hasn’t yet lost its heart. It is still a place where one can go into a bar and take comfort in the company of friends or pause in an outdoor market to listen to live folk music.

By the time Gris-Gris turns up, he has become a symbol of friendship and of a sense of community. We realize that Chloe didn’t have to look that hard to find either.

Human Nature

***2001, Michel Gondry

Delivers zany humor mixed with an anything-goes mentality

Earth

***2007, Alastair Fothergill, and Mark Linfield

Amazing photography assuages fears about Barnum-esque nature documentaries

I grew up loving nature documentaries, but the adult cynic in me makes me question the value and honesty of such films. The bad ones are unrelated segments thrown together under a Barnum-esque narration. The very worst ones use captive animals to illustrate “nature” (Remember the lemmings!).

The Vast of Night

***2020, Andrew Patterson

What sets it apart and makes it special is how the simple story is told.

The Vast of Night is a filmmaking treat from a trio of new talent.

Wild Mountain Thyme

***2020, John Patrick Shanley

It’s a refreshing journey down a different path.

Wild Mountain Thyme feels like a badly needed Christmas hug.

Back in 1987, John Patrick Shanley made quite a splash as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck. What followed has been an interesting ride through the theatrical and cinematic arts. A mere three years after Moonstruck, anticipation was sky high for Shanley’s directorial debut, Joe Versus the Volcano, which opened with a thud but has quietly gained a greater appreciation over the years.

Pearl Harbor

***2001, Michael Bay

A new epic DVD allows audiences to revisit the film and rethink their skepticism

Pearl Harbor did well at the box office, but many critics and quite a few moviegoers were disappointed. People generally were impressed by the attack sequences, but often disliked Ben Affleck and the love story. I think for many, the movie was overhyped. Big ad campaigns and big budgets amount to big promises, and people, myself included, become skeptical.

Movie Habit’s review (3 out of 4 stars) was critical, but more positive than many. “Pearl Harbor manages to be an entertaining war picture without being overly violent, and does a nice job of honoring the thousands of American lives lost on December 7th, 1941.”

A new epic DVD has been released which will allow audiences to revisit the film and rethink their skepticism.

Rise Above

***2003, Tracy Flannigan

Their candor about the past rings true; they’re actually pressing on, not just playing to the press

About a month ago, Jay Leno sat in for Roger Ebert as a guest reviewer on Ebert & Roeper. I perked up because I had to wonder whether Leno was warming up a new chair in anticipation of passing The Tonight Show desk onto Conan O’Brien in 2009.

Paradise: Faith

***1/22012, Ulrich Seidl

Solid characters in a transgressive look at the virtue of Faith

Paradise: Faith is a film that goes out on a limb — way out. And while I’d have a hard time recommending it to a casual moviegoer, the adventurous should learn this director’s name: Ulrich Seidl.

The Aristocrats

***1/22005

A veritable who’s who in American comedy (with a few Brits and Canadians thrown in)

Cinematically, there’s not much going on in The Aristocrats, a talking-heads documentary co-produced by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame). Nevertheless, it’s one of the funniest, most entertaining movies you’re likely to see this year.

The Savages

***2007, Tamara Jenkins

... But will it play in Peoria?

I am aware when I watch a film not only of my own reactions but also of a desire to anticipate the reactions of others. Attending the Starz Denver Film Festival opening-night screening of The Savages, a new film written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (of Slums of Beverly Hills fame), I noticed a gulf between my own and my projected “what-would-the-person-in-the-street-say?” reactions. I saw this on one hand as a warm and darkly funny film about aging and family dysfunction, and on the other hand, I questioned whether the academic elements of this film will sail past or even mystify a lot of audiences. New Yorkers will love this, I thought, but will anyone else?

Detroit

***Kathryn Bigelow

Detroit offers a wealth of material for discussion, but doesn’t serve as a tool for healing.

Detroit is equally horrifying and disappointing.

Without question, Detroit’s portrayal of the despicable events at the Algiers Motel in 1967 is gut-wrenching and intense. In terms of pure, raw filmmaking, it is top of the line.

Lacombe, Lucien

****1974, Louis Malle

A generation after WWII, Louis Malle shed light on French collaborators

In 2015, Louis Malle’s 1974 film Lacombe, Lucien, may not look like much. It’s a movie set during World War II, but it’s not about battles, Nazis, or the Holocaust.

Rush

***1/2Ron Howard

In Rush director Ron Howard strikes on truisms that resonate.

“A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
- Niki Lauda in Rush