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Movie Review: Be Kind Rewind
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LaRae   |  

Be Kind RewindBe Kind Rewind
Written and directed by Michel Gondry
Starring Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover
Rated PG-13
Release date: Feb. 22, 2008

Be Kind Rewind is a sweet, funny, cockle-warming movie sure to make you smile long after you’ve left the theater.

Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) owns the failing neighborhood VHS video store Be Kind Rewind. When he goes on a personal trip, he leaves Mike (Mos Def) in charge of his store with only one instruction, Keep Jerry Out. Jerry (Jack Black) is Mike’s friend, a lovable conspiracy nut and general attractor of destruction. We learn Fletcher’s instructions were well-founded when Jerry accidently erases all the videos in the store. In order to keep Be Kind Rewind from closing its doors, Jerry and Mike set off with a video camera and attempt to reshoot the movies that were erased.

Be Kind Rewind is one of the most charming movies I have seen in some time. Given the cast (specifically MosBlack) and genre, I was skeptical but Michel Gondry made me a shameless believer. Michel Gondry, the writer and director, created a community of characters whose quirks and eccentricities capture the audience’s attention and emotion. I was impressed by how such a ridiculous premise could make me laugh so much and so often.

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Movie Review: Nanking
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LaRae   |  

Nanking movie posterNanking
Directed by William Guttentag, Dan Sturman
Starring Rosalind Chao, Stephen Dorff, Mariel Hemingway
Rated R
Release Date: Dec. 12, 2007

The Raping of Nanking isn’t a figure of speech to the people in Nanking. Narrated by actors but made primarily of firsthand accounts by survivors of the Nanking atrocities, Nanking is bound to educate, enlighten, and horrify.

In 1937, long before the Americans entered World War II, the Japanese invaded China. They bombed most of Nanking. The rich people fled like rats from a fire, leaving the poor and infirmed to fend for themselves. Missionaries from all over the white world decided to stay during the attack to provide a refuge and place for medicine, food, and shelter to those people left behind. They started a safe zone in hopes the Japanese would respect it and the poor people of Nanking would be safe. They did not. It is estimated during that time that 20 thousand rapes occurred in less than six weeks and 200 thousand people were killed in the same time. Many of the murders and rapes were done in front of family members in particularly brutal fashion. Days turned into months and the torment didn’t stop.

Nanking is framed by the real-life stories of missionaries and business people of the west who were living in the Chinese city of Nanking at the time of the Japanese invasion. Their letters, often downright poetic, describe in detail what they witnessed as third-party observers. Hope dwindles into fear and finally into raw accountings of stories, their own and those passed to them.

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Movie Review: Rendition
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LaRae   |  

RenditionRendition
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Omar Metwally
Rated R

Rendition is about the post-9/11 American torture practices and shocks the audience into facing the truth of what their fear created, both home and abroad. Rendition made me ashamed to be associated, even by nationality, to those people who voted for, or support the Patriot Act.

A terrorist bombing rips through a crowded market street in the morning in an attempt to kill a middle-eastern official Igal Noar (Abasi Fawal). They miss the official, but it sets in motion a series of events which leads to Anwar El-Ibrahimi being kidnapped and taken to be tortured. Personally invested and morally conflicted, CIA analyist Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is brought in to observe the “extreme interrogation techniques” approved by Corinne Whitman (Meryl Streep) and inflicted upon the detainee, who may have information on the bombing. Anwar’s wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon), sets out on a mission to find her husband by contacting her old friend, Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard), now Senator Hawkins’s (Alan Arkin) personal aid. While Igal Noar attempts to deal with the terrorists in his country, his daughter Fatima (Zineb Qukach) starts to slip into the hands of her shady boyfriend, Khalid El-Emin (Mohammed Khquas).

The writing in Rendition takes what seems to the average American, an ethically gray area, and starts to separate the colors into a story far more black and white. Rendition asks and attempts to answer the question: What happens when the most powerful people in the world become people of convenient principle? Kelley Sane, the writer of this powerful script, asks the question so boldly and without reservation, the audience is required to face the truth of the answer.

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Movie Review: Things We Lost In the Fire
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LaRae   |  

Things We Lost In The FireThings We Lost In the Fire
Directed by Susanne Bier
Starring Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro
Rated R

Things We Lost in the Fire shows us that life is not fair, bad things happen to good people, good people aren’t always good, and bad people aren’t always as bad as we think. Even though most of the performances are good, Things We Lost in the Fire felt unnatural and at times, even trite.

Alone, without her now deceased husband Steven (David Duchovny), Audry (Halle Berry) has to begin to rebuild her and her children’s lives. She remembers, at the last minute, Steven’s drug-addicted friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro) had yet to be invited to the funeral. After the funeral and after some soul searching, Audry decides to invite Jerry to live in her garage.

I was impressed by how delicately the writer, Allan Loeb, depicted marital intimacies outside of sex. It honed in on something special my husband and I shared. It made Steven and Audry more realistic and human than any steamy sex scene action would. Too bad Loeb couldn’t save the rest of the movie from feeling contrived.

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Movie Review: In the Valley of Elah
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LaRae   |  

The Valley of Elah movie posterEvery so often, a movie earns the title of “Film.” In the Valley of Elah is that film. Powerful and touching writing, exceptional acting, particular visuals, and marvelous direction make In the Valley of Elah a film of timeless quality.

Retired Sergeant Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) gets a phone call saying his son is absent without leave. Unable to accept that his son would abandon his duties as a soldier, he leaves his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon), and he drives to his son’s base to investigate his son’s disappearance. When he doesn’t get the response he wants from the military police, he sets off to contact the civilians. The civilians aren’t any more helpful. They tell him that he must contact the army police because they are in charge of their people, they wouldn’t investigate his disappearance. A jurisdictional nightmare, the only people who seem actively investigating the case is Hank Deerfield and Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) follows behind in tow. The investigation is a fight with the army, a troubling examination of willful incompetence and tragic truths.

The writing in In the Valley of Elah is subtly powerful, beautiful, and demands introspection. Every aspect of this movie requires a second look or further thought. Each character and event is important to the progression and resolution of the story. Even the sheets have important symbolic meaning.

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