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— Wilford Brimley, In & Out

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.

The Proposition

***2006, John Hillcoat

A violent story, but it offers things to think about on the way back home

Set in the 1880s Australian outback, The Proposition is a simple story brutally told.

The Green Wave

***2011, Ali Samadi Ahadi

What happened in Iran in 2009 led the way for the Arab democracy revolt

Recent events in Tunis, Egypt, Bahrain, and now Libya threaten to overshadow the Iranian election of 2009. The Green Wave sets out to make sure we don’t forget.

Good Morning, Vietnam

***1987, Barry Levinson

Dream role allowed Williams to capitalize on his manic humor while reaching more dramatic depths

Gooood morning, Vietnam! Wake up to the victorious odors of napalm, or at least the hyperkinetic shenanigans of Robin Williams, with the new Special Edition DVD of this quasi-classic wartime comedy.

Bill Plympton’s Dog Days

***1/22009, Bill Plympton

A treat for his fans, and a good introduction to Plympton’s work for newbies

When animator Bill Plympton was growing up, he aspired to be a cartoonist for Disney. If they’d given him a job, he would have had to tone down his twisted sensibilities, and the animation world would be poorer for it.

Scrubs Season Three

***2006

The third season is as just as good as the first two

As the fifth season of NBC’s Scrubs winds down, the third season comes out on DVD.

By now I’ll assume you’re up to speed on what Scrubs is (check the sidebar for previous seasons). The third season is the one where Elliot gets a new ‘do and dates an old boyfriend, J.D. dates Dr. Cox’s sister-in-law, and Carla and Turk get ready for their wedding.

Spectre

***1/22015, Sam Mendes

Skyfall’s a tough act for Spectre to follow

Skyfall’s a tough act for Spectre to follow, but nobody could do it better than director Sam Mendes.

Harry Potter 4

***2005, Mike Newell

Flawed and too long, but not bad

I missed the boat on Harry Potter 3. In my review, I failed to pick up on the puberty metaphor that director Alfonso Cuarón brought to the project. While the more observant and insightful critics praised HP3 as being far superior to the previous outings, I simply said that one was basically as good as another and that the director was largely interchangeable. This time I’ll try to be more insightful.

Flora & Ulysses

***2021, Lena Khan

The movie offers a timely reminder the world is still full of wonder and magic.

Flora & Ulysses is a cute little family comedy that’s pushed over the top by a cast that manages to sell both the goofy humor and the heartfelt message.

Nancy Drew

***2007, Andrew Fleming

When she finds herself shunned by the hip chicks, Nancy falls back on her addiction: sleuthing

Quick! While Lindsay’s in rehab (again) and Paris is in the slammer (again), check out Nancy Drew and focus on what a girl with brains can do!

Scream 2

***1997, Wes Craven

Scream 2, like its predecessor, is a genre-crossing film. It is about 50% horror film and 50% murder mystery. The mix worked very well last time and it continues to entertain this time.

Scream was also known for its self-referential tone. Many inside jokes were made in reference to horror movies and Wes Craven. Again, Scream 2 follows suit with characters saying such things as “sequels suck” and “the entire horror genre was destroyed by sequels.”

Scream 2’s story is very similar to it’s predecessor’s. Sidney (Neve Campbell), having survived the killing spree in Scream, is now in college. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) has written a book about the murders and that book is now being released as a feature film, called Stab (which for all practical purposes is the real-world movie Scream). At the premiere of Stab, two students from Sidney’s college are stabbed to death, and a new story begins.

The press descends on Sidney and her college to get the scoop on this sequel killer. They want to know all about the links between Stab, Sidney, and the recent murders.

The most complex self-reference I saw (this should be an Olympic event) was the scene where Gale Weathers was asking questions at a press conference. The rest of the press was watching and videotaping Weathers. The other survivors from Scream were watching and videotaping the press. The audience was watching the whole, filmed scene. (Whew.)

The movie is packed with layers and self-references that make it a pleasure to watch. Even better would be to watch a double feature of Scream and Scream 2. That’s not to say that these references necessarily make Scream 2 a deep, or even a good movie. The just add to the fun of watching it. I recommend it for other reasons as well.

What I liked best about the horror aspect of the movie is that the monster is not supernatural. No werewolf or ghost or psycho with superhuman strength is responsible. It is a person in a mask and a robe, his only advantage the fear he strikes into his victims. No extraordinary leap of faith is needed to believe in the killer. The down side is that if you are frightened by horror movies, you have less grounds to say “it’s just a movie.”

The whodunit aspect of the movie is not that great by itself — Gale Weathers and Deputy Dewey (David Arquette, also from the original) track down a killer. They are likeable, but not outstanding. But in combination with the horror aspect, the whodunit is a perfect counterpoint.

It was exactly a year ago today that I wrote the review for Scream. The Internet Movie Database says that Scream 3 is in the works, so I wonder if I’ll be doing the same thing on January 1, 1999. If Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson are able to keep the quality high, I’ll be happy to mark my calendar.

Ballroom

***1/22003, Pierre Trividic, Patrick-Mario Bernard, and Xavier Brillat

An exercise in atmosphere, with some really inspired surrealism

The problem with Ballroom (aka Dancing) is that everybody seems to want it to be a gay porno movie. OK, so it is about a gay couple, and yes, at one point they do get down to business on camera. But more time is spent in the film cooking and eating than having sex and yet you can’t call Ballroom a culinary movie. I think that Ballroom can best be described as a study in atmosphere... and the atmosphere in this case is surreal and disquieting but in a cool psychological way.

Lost in Translation

***1/22003, Sofia Coppola

Free of their usual context, the characters discover themselves anew

Lost in Translation is a rarity: a film about a purely emotional love affair.

Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a former movie actor in a stale marriage who finds himself in another world, where he is getting $2 million to endorse a Japanese whiskey. Adrift in Tokyo alongside him is another American, dewy Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), married for four years to a hip photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) who has lots of interests that don’t include her. The two lost souls find each other at their hotel bar on one sleepless night, and soon they are spending all of their evenings together.

Thelma & Louise

****2011, Ridley Scott

The movie still packs a punch... and a gun... and lipstick.

Billed as the 20th anniversary edition, Thelma & Louise arrives on Blu-ray essentially as a repackaged copy of the 2002 DVD release, albeit with an enhanced high-def feature presentation. That anniversary labeling is a little disingenuous since there’s nothing new on the disc itself celebrating that milestone, but at least the movie still packs a punch... and a gun... and lipstick.

Beyond Rangoon

***1995, John Boorman

A political adventure with a strong female lead.