Notoriously private, pianist Sviatoslav Richter spent his entire life shunning cameras and reporters only to finally agree to be interviewed near the end of his life. Through most of Bruno Monsaingeon’s documentary, the Russian pianist jokes, talks about his life, comments on contemporaries and discusses years of performance with only a hint of self-loathing. Like most greats, he’s critical of his achievements but more than happy to wax poetic about topics dear to his heart. It’s unlikely that audiences unfamiliar with classic music will enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour subtitled film featuring an elderly Russian pianist and mostly low-resolution footage of his performances. For fans of classical piano, however, there’s little doubt that this absorbing and sad portrait of musical genius will be viewed as inspiring, poignant, witty and ultimately frustrating. To watch him as an 80-year old man declare with resignation, “I do not like myself. That’s it,” is as baffling as it is heartbreaking.
Four years before Pearl Harbor, Japan was already flexing its military muscle, invading China and seizing its capital, Nanking. In the six horrific weeks that bridged 1937 and 1938, Japanese soldiers systematically looted, massacred, and raped an innocent population, killing nearly 200,000 civilians and committing upward of 20,000 sexual assaults. The filmmakers have used a unique technique to tell this story: Intercut with file footage and interviews with survivors, viewers will see a "staged reading" of first-person accounts from the 22 foreigners who set out to create a “safety zone” for the city’s refugees to protect them from the predatory Japanese. It’s an awkward mix of theatre and reportage, but the gravity of the topic and the words of the brave survivors win out.
Miss Pettigrew tries mightily to capture a moment, not just in the life of woman whose small world is spiraling out of control, but of a nation on the precipice of World War II. The result is all froth and no substance, though. Adopting a British accent and a priggish, deferential demeanor, Frances McDormand (Fargo, Laurel Canyon) brings an innate strength to Guinevere Pettigrew, a down-on-her-luck nanny who finds herself in the unlikely role of social secretary to the tasty Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a cabaret singer and gold digger in need of some strong moral guidance. Adams (Enchanted) makes this frisky sex kitten alternately coquettish and calculating, a bubbly throwback to the screwball era. Director Bharat Nalluri effectively frames characters in their glossy, art deco environs, and polishes their untidy lives until they gleam. But he’s so infatuated with the shiny surface that he forgets to look underneath, at the foundation crumbling with dry rot.
The prehistoric visuals are lush, but trouble begins as soon as actors speak. A half-asleep Omar Sharif narrates the fractured yarn, which details a buff young buck named D’leh (Steven Strait) keen to steal his tribe’s title of top mammoth hunter from an all-mighty warrior named Tic Tic. He needs the mighty “White Spear” to get busy with his beloved blue-eyed cutie Evolet (Camilla Belle), who’s discovered the secrets of heavy mascara about 10 millennia early.
Terry (Jason Statham) is an auto repair shop owner over his head in mob debt. No stranger to smash-and-grab type crimes, he’s lured into a bank robbery scheme by sexy old friend, Martine (the impossibly angular Saffron Burrows). What Terry doesn’t know is that she’s been strong-armed into working for MI-5 by her lover (Richard Lintern), who’s trying to retrieve compromising photos of a royal family member from the bank’s vault. If that weren’t complicated enough, Terry and crew cross paths with a vicious Soho gangster (David Suchet), a corrupt policemen, a brothel madam and a black power revolutionary and pimp, Michael X (Peter De Jersey), who all have secrets they’d kill to keep hidden in the bank. Aussie director Donaldson gives his film a cockeyed, jazzy feel, highlighting the sleazy politicos, sexually tense atmosphere and murderous corruption of swinging London. Screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s (Across The Universe, Flushed Away) provide a straightforward tale filled with twisty contrivances and coincidences. Unfortunately, there are so many quirky characters with competing agendas, complicated backgrounds and political connections that as swiftly paced as The Bank Job is, the multiple plot threads start to undermine the central heist adventure.
The theatrical releases of Killer of Sheep (1977) and My Brother’s Wedding (1983) transformed Charles Burnett from elusive legend to tangible influence. His intimate tales of life in South Central Los Angeles have influenced indie filmmakers with their verisimilitude and heartfelt specificity. In this film, the Mundys are focused on the upcoming nuptials of their eldest son, a successful attorney marrying an equally accomplished litigator from an affluent family. Mrs. Mundy (Jessie Holmes) divides her time between church, family obligations, and running a dry cleaning and tailoring shop with her husband (Dennis Kemper). She’s a no-nonsense maternal figure, the kind of woman everyone turns to for clear-eyed decision-making. But Burnett’s real subject is the family malcontent, 30-year-old Pierce Mundy (Everett Silas), who dutifully works at the dry cleaning shop and cares for his sickly grandparents. His seething anger comes out only when dealing with his older brother’s fiancée Sonia (Gaye Shannon-Burnett). The film is episodic, jumping from vignette to vignette without narrative rigor, at once raw and accomplished, as the seemingly random encounters Pierce has with family and friends coalesce into a stark moral dilemma.
Bagger Dave’s, which seats 108, is more a full-service restaurant than its fast-food, drive-in and take-away competitors. That said, Dave’s burgers, fries and sandwiches are often delivered to the table wrapped in paper bags. (That’s where bagger comes from.) Unlike most burger joints, you can purchase bottled beer ($3.50-$4.75) and wine ($5-$6.50) by the pour while you enjoy the sophisticated jazz playlist. Finally, the woodsy up-north interior includes a kiddy-pleasing electric train running above the two dining sections. Burgers are 3.5 ounces — one costs $3.29 and two $4.29 (turkey burgers are a dollar more), and a generous helping of hand-cut double-fried Belgian style Idaho fries is priced $2.19 a bag.