Historical

[5.5] In 18th century Italy, an orphan boy comes of age with the help of nuns and a kindly mentor, falls in love, gets embroiled in the slave trade, and fights for his inheritance in this adaptation of Hervey Allen’s sprawling novel. Anthony Adverse looks and sounds great, with immense sets, period costumes, and a rich score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Some of the supporting …

[6.0] Rory Calhoun, or proto-George Clooney as I like to call him, stars in this kinda silly but kinda fun sword-and-sandals flick that earned Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America) his first major directing credit. Calhoun plays a visiting war hero on the island of Rhodes who gets tangled in a rebel uprising and a Phoenician conquest. He also …

[6.0] James Woods stars as the museum director taken to court when photographs from Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1990 exhibit were accused of being obscene in Cincinnati, Ohio. Diana Scarwid and Craig T. Nelson also star in this made-for-cable movie that incorporates Mapplethrope’s photos and interviews with political pundits and people who knew and worked with Mapplethorpe. I enjoyed the artist’s photos and the documentary interview bits, …

[7.5] Spike Lee directs the stranger-than-fiction true story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, who struck up a relationship with local KKK members over the phone and acted through a white surrogate for face-to-face encounters. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s partner in the investigation. Just how much is truth and …

[8.0] Oliver Stone’s Platoon was one of the first major motion pictures to deal with the Vietnam war. Charlie Sheen stars as an infantry volunteer who finds himself in a moral quandry, torn between two sergeants of differing philosophies. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe give solid, Oscar-nominated performances as the two sergeants, but it’s the director’s voice that comes through most strikingly in Platoon. As …

[7.0] Colin Firth plays the stuttering King George VI, who never wanted to be king for fear of his speech impediment bringing shame to him and his family. The King’s Speech focuses on the antagonistic relationship between the king and his therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, and culminates in a live radio speech the King gives on the eve of Britain’s declaration of …

[7.0] Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Near Dark) won the Oscar for directing this suspense thriller about three soldiers who disarm bombs in Iraq. The movie also won Best Picture, maybe just because nothing better came out during the year (except the REAL best picture, District 9, but I digress). It’s far from groundbreaking and surprisingly predictable — but it’s a brisk, entertaining flick that hits …

[6.0] Richard Attenborough (Gandhi, Chaplin) reenacts the elaborate but doomed Operation Market Garden, a World War II strategy the Allied Forces valiantly attempted to execute in order to defeat German Forces in the Netherlands. A Bridge Too Far is a three-hour Cliffs Notes version of a┬áhistorical event, largely plot-driven, with a lot of cross-cutting storylines being juggled at all times. The all-star cast get little …

[8.0] Chris Pine stars in this emotional rescue story about a heroic Coast Guardsman who leads a small crew into a winter storm to rescue the workers on a sinking oil┬átanker. The Finest Hours is based on the true 1952 story, which the Coast Guard still regards as their most miraculous mission. The movie may already sound exciting to you — and it is. But …

[8.0] A movie about corporate betrayal and litigation is normally not my idea of a good time, but The Social Network turns out to be a well-made, voyeuristic look back at the birth of a now-ubiquitous product that many users can’t live without. In fact, you wouldn’t be reading this review without it. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) is a shoe-in come Oscar time …

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